Building starts on underground Gaza barrier
Israel is planning to build a massive concrete wall which will extend below ground along the Gaza Strip border, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper has revealed. The barrier is aimed at combating the threat posed by Hamas tunnels crossing into the country from Gaza.
The wall, which will stretch along the 96km (60 mile) border around the Gaza Strip, will extend several dozen meters below the ground, and will also be present above the ground. It is estimated to cost US$568 million.
The costly plan – aimed at tackling Hamas terror tunnels – was cleared for publication by Israel’s military censor, according to Ynet, a website affiliated with Yedioth Ahronoth.The wall will be the third defense system of its kind to be erected along the border.
The first 60km (37 mile) barrier was constructed in 1994, following the Oslo Accords. The second was built following Israel’s decision to disengage from Gaza in 2005. However, neither system proved successful in combating the threat of attack tunnels.
Israel’s plan comes after two Hamas tunnels spanning from Gaza to Israel were discovered in April and May. Hamas has confirmed it is building tunnels, and residents in southern Israel communities bordering Gaza have reported hearing digging sounds under their homes, i24 reported.
Hamas has previously used tunnels to avoid or carry out attacks, store weapons, and enter Israel. It says, however, that the tunnels are needed to defend against Israeli fire.
In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to build barriers to “defend ourselves against wild beasts.”
“We are preparing a multi-year project to encircle Israel with a security fence, to defend ourselves in the Middle East as it is now, and as it is expected to be,” Netanyahu said in a statement at the time.
“At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” he added. “I’ll be told, ‘This is what you want, to protect the villa?’ The answer is yes. Will we surround all of the State of Israel with fences and barriers? The answer is yes. In the area that we live in, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Policy reported in March that Israel is building an ‘Underground Iron Dome,’ a system that could detect and destroy cross-border tunnels. The government has spent more than $250 million on the project since 2004, according to Israel’s Channel 2 TV station.
The Thursday report comes just one day after a senior Defense Ministry official said that Israel has “no desire to rule over Gaza, and as long as there is no alternative government there, we have no business being there…but on the other hand, we cannot conduct a constant war of attrition.”
“Therefore the next conflict has to be the last conflict in terms of Hamas ruling the Strip. We are not looking for an adventure, but a confrontation with Hamas is inevitable. It is an ongoing and growing threat and we need to be prepared for it,” he added.