Israel Announces Completion of Underground Gaza Border Barrier

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Israeli security personnel gesture at an opening to the newly completed underground barrier along Israel’s frontier with the Gaza Strip in Erez, Tuesday. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Israel on Tuesday announced the completion of a sensor-equipped underground wall on its side of the Gaza border, a countermeasure developed after Hamas militants used tunnels to blindside its troops in a 2014 war.

Israel went public with the project, which also includes an above-ground fence, a naval barrier, radar systems and command and control rooms, in 2016.

“The barrier, which is an innovative and technologically advanced project, deprives Hamas of one of the capabilities it tried to develop,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

“[It] places an ‘iron wall’, sensors and concrete between the terror organization and the residents of Israel’s south,” he said of the project, which beefs up an existing border fence.

The ministry said the barrier, which includes hundreds of cameras, radars and other sensors, spans 65 kilometers (40 miles) and that 140,000 ton of iron and steel were used in its construction, which took 3-and-a-half years to complete.

It said the project’s “smart fence” is more than 6 meters (20 feet) high and its maritime barrier includes means to detect infiltration by sea and a remote-controlled weapons system. The ministry did not disclose the depth of the underground wall.

Gaza also has a 14-kilometre-(8.7-mile)-long border with Egypt, which has also clamped down on crossings, citing security concerns. Since 2013, Egyptian forces have demolished smuggling tunnels while Hamas, on its side, has stepped up patrols.