Israel begins work on NIS 2 billion underground Gaza barrier
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Israel begins work on NIS 2 billion underground Gaza barrier

IDF's 'largest-ever project' ever will see construction of concrete wall above and below ground, in bid to thwart Hamas attack tunnels

Israeli construction teams work on a concrete border wall to run above and below ground along the Gaza border, September 2016. (Screen capture: Ynet)
Israeli construction teams work on a concrete border wall to run above and below ground along the Gaza border, September 2016. (Screen capture: Ynet)

Israel recently broke ground on a new subterranean barrier along the length of its border with the Gaza Strip, aimed at stopping Palestinian terror groups from tunneling into the country and carrying out attacks.

The Defense Ministry in July approved the NIS 2 billion ($530 million) project that would see a concrete wall — both below and above ground — built along the entire the 60 kilometer (about 37 miles) border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Construction on the barrier wall began at the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, to protect a cluster Israeli towns bordering the northern Gaza Strip from cross-border attacks, the Ynet news website reported.

According to Ynet, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot called the border wall “the largest project” ever carried out in Israel’s military history. The website added, however, that the project is at risk of being defunded due to a lack of clarification from the government about how the barrier will be financed.

That wall, which was first proposed by the IDF in the wake of the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza, is set to include both physical barriers and technological detection systems to better protect against infiltration from the coastal enclave.

Palestinian terrorists from the Islamic Jihad's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, squat in a tunnel, used for ferrying rockets and mortars back and forth in preparation for the next conflict with Israel, as they take part in military training in the south of the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian terrorists from the Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, squat in a tunnel, used for ferrying rockets and mortars back and forth in preparation for the next conflict with Israel, as they take part in military training in the south of the Gaza Strip on March 3, 2015. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

The army proposed the construction of the fence to protect the areas surrounding the coastal enclave in the immediate aftermath of the 50-day war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, used the cross-border tunnels to launch a number of attacks against Israel during the conflict.

Earlier this year, the IDF uncovered two tunnels that crossed into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, the first such discoveries since the end of the 2014 conflict.

A tunnel discovered in April ran at a depth of approximately 30-40 meters (100 feet) below ground, extending dozens of meters inside Israel from the Gaza Strip.

In response to reports of the expansive border wall, a senior Hamas official and several other leaders of other Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, vowed to strike Israel should an underground barrier be built along the border.

IDF infantrymen congregate around a tunnel in Gaza on July 24, 2014. (Courtesy IDF Flickr)
IDF infantrymen congregate around a tunnel in Gaza on July 24, 2014. (Courtesy IDF Flickr)

Ismail Radwan in June told a Hamas-affiliated news site in June the project indicated Israel’s “failure to face the tunnels.” He stressed that the wall would “not limit the resistance’s ability to defend our people.”

Israel has sought to find a technological or physical answer to the cross-border tunnels for over a decade.

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