Gaza terror groups vow to circumvent underground border wall
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Gaza terror groups vow to circumvent underground border wall

Hamas says reported anti-tunnel barrier around Strip won’t stymie its attempts to ‘liberate’ Palestine

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Israeli soldiers and civilians use heavy engineering equipment to discover a Hamas attack tunnel near the Gaza border last week, in a video released on April 18, 2016. (Screen capture: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Israeli soldiers and civilians use heavy engineering equipment to discover a Hamas attack tunnel near the Gaza border last week, in a video released on April 18, 2016. (Screen capture: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups on Saturday vowed a tough reaction to reported plans by Israel to build an underground cement barrier along the Gaza border.

The Hebrew daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday that security chiefs had decided to go ahead with a multi-billion-shekel project for a concrete wall above and far below the entire 60 kilometers of the Israel-Gaza border in order to block Palestinians from digging their way into the country and carrying out attacks.

Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan told the Hamas-affiliated news site al-Resalah, “The resistance is able to adapt to all circumstances for the sake of continuing its project to liberate [Palestine].”

He also claimed the reported plans were a sign of Israel’s “failure to face the tunnels,” and stressed that the procedures would “not limit the resistance’s ability to defend our people.”

Palestinian militants 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 militants 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)

Along with the Hamas official, leaders of other Palestinian factions in Gaza vowed to strike Israel should the underground wall be built.

Khader Habib, leader of the Islamic Jihad terror organization in Gaza, told al-Resalah that his group would not allow Israel to change facts on the ground in the Strip.

“If we are forced to, we will respond forcefully,” Habib warned.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Central Committee member Zulfikar Suergo said the building of the underground wall “would lead to the opening of a new front as it constitutes an aggression against Gaza.”

Masked Palestinian gunmen of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Gaza City during a rally on September 2, 2014, to celebrate the Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. (photo credit: AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Masked Palestinian gunmen of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Gaza City during a rally on September 2, 2014, to celebrate the Egypt-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Talal Abu Zarifa, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said Israel must recognize that the cement wall would “not provide Israel with security,” and the tunnels were “only part of the equation.”

The underground barrier, first proposed following the 2014 Gaza war during which Hamas fighters penetrated into Israel through tunnels, would reportedly cost NIS 2.2 billion ($570 million), far less than previous expectations that put the bill for such a scheme at a prohibitive tens of billions of shekels.

The planned barrier was said to be designed to include both above-ground and underground protections against infiltration from the coastal enclave, and is reportedly set to include both physical barriers and improved technological detection.

A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a photo released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A tunnel reaching from Gaza into Israel, seen in a photo released by the IDF on April 18, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

In May and April, the IDF uncovered two tunnels that crossed into Israeli territory, the first such discoveries since the end of the war, in August 2014.

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

Israel has labored for over a decade to find a technological or physical answer to Hamas tunnels under the border.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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