A technological barrier that can detect attack tunnels crossing under the border with the Gaza Strip into Israel is nearly completed and could be finished in about four months, Channel 10 reported.
The barrier is about 90 percent done and will be supplemented by an enormous concrete wall extending deep into the ground along the border that should be completed by the beginning of 2019, according to the Sunday report.
Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that controls Gaza, has used tunnels to infiltrate Israeli territory and carry out attacks, including shootings and the kidnapping of an IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was released after five years in captivity in exchange for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
According to the report, it was the new technologies deployed on the barrier that discovered two Palestinian attack tunnels the IDF destroyed in recent months.
On October 30, the army blew up one tunnel, which belonged to the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. The tunnel started in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis and extended into Israeli territory, ending near Kibbutz Kissufim. In the blast, 12 members of the group were killed, including two senior officers, along with two members of Hamas.
On December 10, the IDF destroyed another tunnel that began in Khan Younis, this one belonging to Hamas, which reached hundreds of meters inside Israel, the army said. The military used another, secret technique — not explosives — to destroy this second attack tunnel.
In the nearly two months since the army destroyed the Palestinian Islamic Jihad tunnel, there have been heightened tensions and a frequency of rocket attacks that hasn’t been seen since before the 2014 Gaza war.
The new underground barrier, which is estimated to cost upwards of NIS 3 billion ($851 million), is being built inside Israeli territory. The current metal fence surrounding the Strip, which lies exactly on the border, will remain in place while the new fence is built a few dozen meters inside Israel.
Military analysts suspect that, in light of the new barrier, Hamas is focusing more of its attention on developing an underground tunnel network within the Gaza Strip, as opposed to border-crossing tunnels.
In order to construct the underground barrier, workers are using a German hydromill, a powerful piece of drilling equipment that cuts deep, narrow trenches into the earth.
In addition to opening up the ground where the barrier will be constructed, the hydromill is expected to expose any previously undiscovered or newly dug Hamas tunnels that enter Israeli territory.
The space left behind by the hydromill — and any Hamas tunnels that get in the way — is then filled with a substance known as bentonite, a type of absorbent clay that expands when it touches water.
This is meant to prevent the trenches from collapsing, but also has the additional benefit of indicating the presence of a tunnel, as the bentonite would quickly drain into it.
Workers then pour regular concrete into the trench. Metal cages with sensors attached are then lowered into the concrete for additional support.
In July 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in response to rocket fire from Gaza. During the 50-day campaign, the IDF destroyed some 14 tunnels that entered Israeli territory, along with 18 internal tunnels, and depleted Hamas’s weapons stores.
In the more than three years since the operation, the army has revealed that it found and destroyed at least four attack tunnels entering Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, in April and May 2016, and in October and now December 2017.