The Defense Ministry on Sunday revealed images of a new sea barrier being constructed to protect the country from attacks from the Gaza Strip, with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman saying work was progressing at an “impressively fast” pace.
“Israel’s counter-terrorism capabilities around Gaza are increasing every day,” Liberman said.
“The work to erect the land and sea barrier around the Gaza Strip is progressing at a fast and impressive rate,” Liberman said. “Our ability prevent attacks near the Strip gets better all the time.”
When completed it will be 200 meters (650 feet) long, 50 meters (160 feet) wide and six meters (20 feet) above the water. There will also be defensive infrastructure along the top of the barrier.
The barrier described by the ministry as an “impregnable breakwater,” constructed in the area of Zikim beach adjacent to the coastal enclave, is designed to withstand being battered by waves and to last for many years, the ministry said when it began construction at the end of May.
Brigadier General Eran Ofir, the head of the Borders Administration, which is constructing the barrier, said the wall would be completed by the end of the year, adding that it would be made of three levels — “an underwater level, then a level of armor stone, and a third layer of barbed wire.”
The entire barrier itself is protected with another wire security fence.
When construction began on the barrier, Liberman described it as “the only one of its kind in the world.”
The decision to build the barrier was prompted by an attack carried out during the 2014 war in Gaza. On July 8, 2014, four Hamas naval commandos swam ashore outside Kibbutz Zikim on Israel’s southern coast.
The frogmen brought with them automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and explosives, the latter of which they used against an Israeli tank, unsuccessfully. Some 40 minutes after they came in from the surf, the Hamas operatives were killed in a combined attack from the sea, ground and air.
Initially presented by the military as an unmitigated victory, a leaked IDF review of the incident later showed the army’s response to be slower than previously thought and the Hamas commandos’ attack to be more accomplished than it had seemed.
The defensive sea shield comes in addition to work that began last year on a massive barrier Israel is constructing along its land border with the Gaza Strip.
The work on the 37-mile (60-kilometer) barrier began in 2016 and is expected to be finished around the end of next year. It will feature an advanced underground protection system that extends dozens of meters below the ground — the army does not reveal the depth — in order to detect and destroy tunnels that attempt to penetrate into Israeli territory, as well as an aboveground metal fence adorned with sensors.
The project is expected to cost approximately NIS 3 billion ($833 million), with each kilometer of the underground portion of the barrier costing approximately NIS 41.5 million ($11.5 million). The aboveground fence is significantly cheaper at just NIS 1.5 million ($416,000) per kilometer.
The military proposed building this barrier, too, following the 2014 Gaza war.
Hamas, a terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, made extensive use of its tunnel networks to send fighters into Israel as well as to move its terrorist operatives and munitions within the Gaza Strip.
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.
Since work began on the land barrier the IDF has destroyed several cross-border tunnels.