Israel to build wall along Gaza border highway to foil anti-tank missile attacks

Construction of barrier, running alongside 4.6 kilometers of Route 34 and some parts of Route 232 that are exposed to Strip, to be completed by the summer

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

File: The scene where a car was hit by a anti-tank guided missile fired from the Gaza Strip on the Route 34 highway, May 5, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
File: The scene where a car was hit by a anti-tank guided missile fired from the Gaza Strip on the Route 34 highway, May 5, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Transportation Ministry, Defense Ministry, and military engineering units are set to begin construction on a wall along a main highway and another route near the border with the Gaza Strip, to obscure potential targets from anti-tank missiles fired by terror groups.

On Wednesday, officials held a ceremony near the Route 34 highway, where the construction work is set to begin in the coming months.

The plan includes erecting a tall wall along 4.6 kilometers (2.9 miles) of the highway that runs between the city of Sderot and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, north of the Gaza Strip, as well as some parts of Route 232, which runs along the whole border.

A statement from the Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said cycling lanes would also be built along the wall.

The construction work is set to be completed in the summer, the IDF said.

The estimated cost of the project was unclear, but in 2019 a similar plan that had apparently been delayed was reported to have a budget of NIS 100 million ($28 million).

Chief of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano speaks during a ceremony marking the beginning of construction of a wall along Route 34, near the Gaza Strip, January 4, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In 2019, Moshe Feder, 68, was killed when a Kornet anti-tank guided missile slammed into his car as he was driving on Route 34. The Hamas terror group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The IDF later said it had failed to recognize the risks posed to Israeli drivers on the road, north of the Gaza Strip.

In response to that attack, some temporary solutions were built along Route 34 to protect drivers, including a small concrete wall and a 900-meter-long earth embankment. Trees were also planted in the area to obscure the highway from terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Since then, during security escalations, the military has shuttered roads along the Gaza border that are exposed to missile and sniper fire. Such precautions largely placed residents of the border communities under a lockdown.

Police block roads near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 4, 2022. (Flash90)

The new project aims to better protect Israeli motorists and enable civilians to still move around during periods of heightened tensions.

While Hamas and other terror groups have long had Kornet missiles in their arsenals, the weapon’s high price tag means they are typically used against high- profile military targets, not against civilians.

During an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, several anti-tank guided missiles were launched at Israeli military and civilian targets exposed to the border, but not on the highway itself.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in a violent coup, and is the de facto ruler of the territory.

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