US Congress seeking to deepen Israel ‘anti-tunnel’ defence capabilities

The US Congress is eyeing deepening cooperation between the United States and Israeli militaries on tunnel fighting, as a result of the Hamas-led 7 October military operation.

In a proposed amendment to the fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to improve cooperation between the United States and Israel on anti-tunnel defence capabilities.

The legislation has been proposed by Republican Congressmen Joe Wilson, Don Bacon and Doug Lamborn, alongside Democrats Ruben Gallego, Brad Schneider and Seth Moulton.

In addition to enhancing cooperation, the lawmakers are calling on the US to provide an additional $30m to Israel to detect, map and fight in underground tunnels. Last year the US provided $47.5m for the efforts.

“Israel is an international leader in developing innovative defence technologies, including pioneering efforts to map, detect, destroy and maneuver through terror tunnels,” the legislation says.

“Such an increase in joint United States-Israel cooperation will not only benefit Israel but will also help the United States and allies across the globe that face similar challenges from subterranean tunnels.”

The NDAA is an annual piece of legislation that sets the budget for the Pentagon. The House of Representatives is slated to consider the amendment along with hundreds of others in the coming days, as is the Senate. A final version of the NDAA is passed by both bodies and signed into law by the US president.

President Joe Biden’s administration has faced some criticism among progressive lawmakers for its unconditional support of Israel’s war on Gaza. Since 7 October, US lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have moved to enhance cooperation.

Despite tensions between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over differences on post-war Gaza governance and civilian Palestinian casualties, the Israeli leader is set to address US lawmakers in Washington on 24 July. He received the invitation from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.

Hamas has been able to withstand Israel’s deadly bombardment thanks to its massive tunnel infrastructure below Gaza. Israel’s assault on the enclave has killed at least 37,164 people, mainly women and children.

US officials have been working with Israel to try to cut off Hamas’s access to tunnels. In May, Israel seized Gaza’s border with Egypt, saying the move was necessary to prevent smuggling arms into Gaza.

In a bid to avert the assault and smooth over tensions between Israel and Egypt over allegations of Hamas tunnel smuggling in the Sinai, the US deployed technical teams to Egypt’s side of the border earlier this year to address the allegations of tunnel smuggling, MEE previously reported.

The 2025 NDAA is being hashed out at a time when the Biden administration itself is reviewing the US’s military approach to Gaza and the occupied West Bank, two theaters that US officials had paid little attention to before 7 October.

The Biden administration is also weighing a plan to bring cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces under the purview of Centcom, a potential reshuffle that some US officials say could advance plans for post-war Gaza governance, MEE reported on Friday.

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