Israel completes construction of ‘iron wall’ around Gaza

‘Smart fence’ with sensors and cameras is 65km long and six metres high

Israel has announced the completion of a sensor-equipped underground wall on its side of the Gaza border, a counter-measure developed after Hamas militants used tunnels to blindside its troops in a 2014 war. Video: Reuters

 

Israel says the completion of a new state-of-the art barrier along the Gaza border is designed to prevent attempts by militants to infiltrate into southern Israel.

The barrier, which took 3½ years to build, is above and below ground and extends into the Mediterranean sea. It is fitted with sensors to detect tunnel construction and includes remotely controlled weapons systems and an array of radar systems with cameras that cover the entire territory of the Gaza Strip.

Defence minister Benny Gantz, speaking at a ceremony marking the completion of the project, said the aim was to restore normal life for residents of Israel’s south.

“The barrier denies Hamas one of the capabilities it tried to develop and puts an iron wall, sensors and cement between it and the citizens in the south. Ongoing normalacy of life here is our big victory and it is the biggest enemy of the terrorist organisations,” he said.

The army decided to build the 65km fence at a cost of almost €1 billion after Hamas made extensive use of attack tunnels during the 2014 Gaza war, with a number of militants successfully infiltrating into Israel via tunnels built under the border.

Brig Gen Eran Ofir, in charge of the project, said there was other no place in the world that had built an underground barrier.

“It was a very complex project, both operationally and engineering-wise. The work was not easy. We went through 15 rounds of fighting, we were shot at, and we didn’t stop work for a moment.”

Next year Israel is due to begin construction of a new barrier along the northern border with Lebanon although a more challenging terrain will require a significantly different fence than the Gaza project.

And the militants in Gaza have already changed tactics, focusing on developing drones and launching incendiary balloons during periods of tension. The main threat to Israel from Gaza remains the firing of rockets and Israel is now developing a laser interception system that it hopes can be operational within a couple of years.

The Gaza border has been relatively quiet over the last few weeks as Egypt continues mediation efforts following the war in May that left more than 250 Palestinians killed along with 13 people inside Israel. However, militant groups have warned that they will resume attacks soon if there is no progress on a rehabilitation agreement.