TEL AVIV – Israel has begun to construct a new $530 million barrier both above and below ground along its 37-mile border with the Gaza Strip, aimed at preventing Hamas from building underground terror tunnels into the country.
Since approving the project in July, the Defense Ministry accepted bids from four construction companies to build the wall, which will reach several stories underground as well as above ground.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the barrier is “the largest project” ever carried out in the history of Israel’s military, Ynet news reported. However, the project is at risk of being defunded since none of the 2017-2018 budget has been allocated to it.
Despite this, officials from both the Defense and Finance ministries have confirmed that construction will not be delayed. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told Gaza border communities that “money will not be a barrier to erecting the barrier.”
Construction has begun near the Israeli towns closest to the Gaza border that have been most affected by the Hamas tunnels. In the 50-day summer conflict with Gaza in 2014, the terror group used cross-border tunnels to launch several attacks. The IDF first proposed the construction of a barrier immediately following that war.
Since the war, Hamas has continued to build its underground tunnel network, with Israeli officials saying in July that as much as six miles of the subterranean passageways were being dug every month.
The new wall will also include tunnel detection systems.
A senior Hamas official responded to news of the barrier by saying that the terror group would strike Israel if it was built.
Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan in June told the Hamas-affiliated news site al-Resalah, “The resistance is able to adapt to all circumstances for the sake of continuing its project to liberate [Palestine].”
He added that the barrier plans were a sign of Israel’s “failure to face the tunnels.”