Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced his intention to “surround the entire State of Israel with a fence,” including sealing off openings in the West Bank security barrier.

Speaking during a tour of the Jordan border area in the south, Netanyahu said the extensive project would also address the potential threat of cross-border tunnels into Israeli territory.

“If you’re thinking of erecting a fence there you have to take into account that they could tunnel underneath it,” Netanyahu said. “The people who said that there is no significance to [retaining] territory in the modern age should go to Gaza.”

In its 2014 conflict with Israel, the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas, as well as firing thousands of rockets and mortar shells into Israel, used a network of subterranean passages to infiltrate Israeli territory, launch attacks and in one case, during fighting inside Gaza, kidnap the body of an IDF soldier.

“In our neighborhood, we need to protect ourselves from the predatory animals,” Netanyahu said in an apparent reference to extremist Islamist movements.

Unlike the borders with Egypt and Jordan, where both sides of the fence are in relatively open areas, Netanyahu hinted at potential problems implementing a reinforced barrier in West Bank “where you have built up areas, buildings along the separation line.”

But, the prime minister added, Israel is “formulating a plan to seal off the openings in the security fence in the West Bank.”

A section of the Israel-Jordan security fence, constructed in January 2016 (Defense Ministry)

A section of the Israel-Jordan security fence, constructed in January 2016 (Defense Ministry)

“At the end of the day, in the State of Israel as I see it, there will be a fence like this one [the border fence with Jordan currently under construction] surrounding its entirety…We will surround the entire State of Israel with a fence, a barrier.”

Netanyahu called the border project a part of a “multi-year plan to surround the entire State of Israel with security fences to protect ourselves in the current and projected Middle East.”

The project, which is also set to include a new fence along the border with the Gaza Strip, will cost “many billions,” he said.

Last month, construction began on a long security fence along the Jordanian border, Israel’s only internationally recognized frontier currently without a full barrier.

In accordance with a 2015 government decision, approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) of fence is initially being built, from the southernmost resort town of Eilat to beyond a new international airport currently under construction in the Timna Valley. This portion of the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and will cost approximately NIS 300 million ($77 million), which will be drawn from the Defense Ministry budget.

In 2013, Israel completed a five-meter-high barbed wire fence along its border with Sinai, seeking to prevent terror groups, drug smugglers and African migrants from infiltrating Israeli territory from the Egyptian peninsula.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.