British bomb experts have received training from the IDF’s central weapons laboratory on the types of bombs used by Islamist terrorists.
The Substances Laboratory, which is part of the IDF Ground Command’s Experiment and Quality Control Unit near Tel Aviv, is a mecca for explosives specialists from around the world. One of the main roles of the lab is to analyse all bombs and ammunition used against Israeli forces and civilians and devise methods of countering them.
The lab’s experts use shrapnel, unexploded bombs and the latest intelligence reports about chemicals smuggled into the Gaza Strip by terror organisations in order to construct their own versions of the weapons. These are then tested to devise ways of armouring military personnel and vehicles against them. The lab has even built its own version of the Kassam rocket, thousands of which were fired at Israel from Gaza.
It also produces specimens of bomb-making materials which are used to train the IDF’s sniffer dogs, and plays a central role in devising security procedures for airports.
As intelligence services in the West began to focus on Islamist terror in recent years, experts from various countries have visited the lab to learn more about the bombs used by these organisations.
Lieutenant Colonel Eran Tuval, the lab’s commander, has hosted officers from many of the armies involved in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy.
“These armies suddenly realised they were taking many casualties from a weapon they had never encountered before, homemade improvised explosive devices,” explained Lt Col Tuval. “They were still fighting the Soviets in their heads and had to undergo a complete change of concept. They come here to learn how the IEDs are built and work and how to deal with them.”
Representatives of domestic counter terror agencies, including FBI agents and Scotland Yard officers, have also visited the lab.
“After the bomb attacks in London in 2005, experts from Scotland Yard came here,” says Lt Col Tuval. “They were trying to anlayse the bombs that hadn’t gone off and it was like nothing else they had seen before. Not like what the IRA had used. We helped them understand what substances were used for the bombs so they could know what to look for the next time. This is also a legal question, because you have to decide what substance is illegal and in what quantities. Many of the materials used to make bombs can be bought openly. We were also asked to help them after the case of the shoe bomber.”
According to Lt Col Tuval, the plot to blow up transatlantic flights in August 2006 using liquid explosives was a real threat.
“There are liquids that when mixed together can create bombs, they seem very innocent and you can have two passengers, each carrying a different liquid, who mix them together mid-flight.
“In British airports, the security personnel are not allowed to racially profile passengers. That is why everyone boarding a plane in Britain still can’t carry liquids.”