tunnel trouble

Lawmakers call to nearly double U.S.-Israel anti-tunneling funding

The bill’s sponsors highlighted the program’s importance for both combating Hamas as well as securing the southern border

Noam Galai/Getty Images

The entrance to a tunnel that Hamas reportedly used on October 7th to attack Israel through the Erez border crossing on January 7, 2024, in Northern Gaza.

A bipartisan group of House members on Tuesday introduced a bill proposing to nearly double U.S. funding for cooperative anti-tunneling programs with Israel.

The United States-Israel Anti-Tunnel Cooperation Enhancement Act, led by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Don Bacon (R-NE) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) would propose providing $80 million annually for the program, which was funded at $47.5 million for the 2024 fiscal year.

The counter-tunnelling programs have been deployed by both Israel to detect tunnels along the Gaza and Lebanon borders and by the U.S. in theaters including the U.S. southern border, the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East. The proposal comes as Israel continues its efforts to destroy or neutralize hundreds of miles of Hamas tunnels underneath the coastal enclave.

“There is an increased need to scale up bilateral cooperation on anti-tunneling efforts as a reflection of the complexity of the subterranean terror reality in Gaza revealed since the start of Israel’s military campaign,” the bill’s findings state, adding that the cooperation will benefit both the U.S. and Israel.

Wilson noted in a statement that the tunnels have been used to protect Hamas leadership as well as safeguard the terrorist group’s weapons facilities and hide hostages.

“Increased funding will go towards the development of new technologies to maneuver and support Israel’s security needs and the ultimate defeat of the terror tunnels. This bill sends a strong message that the U.S. will always stand with Israel,” he said in a statement.

Gallego, who is running in a competitive race for Arizona’s open Senate seat, where border security is a major concern, highlighted the connection between the program and the U.S. southern border.

“Bolstering anti-tunnel technology is not just good for Israel, it’s also good for the U.S. — strengthening our national security and allowing local law enforcement to combat cartel smuggling along Arizona’s border,” he said. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan effort to ensure our allies have the resources needed to combat terrorist groups like Hamas and keep Americans and Israelis safe.”

Moulton, who has offered strong criticisms of Israel’s leaders and military campaign in Gaza, reiterated his support for the anti-tunneling program.

“Today, terrorist groups like Hamas too easily have the ability to create vast networks of tunnels from which they can safely plan and launch attacks — and hide hostages. These tunnel networks also allow terrorists to use the innocent civilians above ground as human shields,” Moulton said. “It’s critical to our national security that we work with our allies and partners to develop better technology to detect and destroy dangerous tunnel networks. This is important not just in Israel, but in hotspots around the world.”

Bacon echoed Gallego in highlighting the border-related uses for the anti-tunneling system, in addition to its utility in combating Hamas. 

“Just like Hamas uses their 350-450 miles of tunnels to try and infiltrate Israel and to hide and move their hostages, Mexican cartels have also used tunnels to traffic humans and drugs across, or rather under the borders,” he said.

Schneider also highlighted that the Oct. 7 attacks “clearly and tragically demonstrated” the “necessity for expanding this program,” adding that the program protects Americans at home and allies abroad.

This bill alone will not grant additional funding for the anti-tunneling program; it would still have to be approved as part of the annual appropriations process later this year.

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