TEL AVIV – The underground wall that Israel is building to stop the terror group Hamas’ cross-border tunnels from Gaza will also stretch into the Mediterranean to prevent infiltration from the sea, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.
During the 50-day summer conflict with Gaza in 2014, five Hamas terror naval commandos attempted to enter Israel by sea but were caught and killed by the navy. Hamas has since expanded its naval commando unit significantly, with the number of frogmen swelling to 1,500.
Even though Hamas has been keeping hostilities to a minimum in recent months, the construction of the barrier may provoke future attacks.
On Wednesday, head of the Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir warned that even though the wall is being built solely on Israeli territory, it could “potentially lead to a dangerous escalation.” He added, however, that Operation Protective Edge showed that Israel needs a solution to the tunnel problem.
Construction of the $530 million barrier began last summer and will take two years to complete. Embedded with advanced tunnel-detecting monitoring devices, the wall is made from European bentonite and stretches up to 20 feet above ground. Purpose-built sensors collect information from the ground, including the length and location of the tunnel, and transmit it to control systems where advanced algorithms decipher the data.
The IDF, the Shin Bet security agency and dozens of companies – including Iron Dome developers Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems — are said to be involved in assembling the barrier.
During the 2014 war against Hamas, Israel found and destroyed more than 30 Hamas tunnels.
Zamir said the terror group is continuing to expand its “metro system” of tunnels, which, in addition to tunnels for the purposes of executing terror attacks on Israeli soil, include smuggling conduits into Egypt as well as command centers and weapons caches. Many of them, he said, stretch under residential homes in the Gaza Strip.
“Any civilians who stay in these buildings endanger their lives and the lives of their families. It’s Hamas who endangers them first and foremost, but every building over a tunnel is a legitimate military target,” Zamir said.
“Part of Hamas’s combat strategy is to conduct itself within civilian areas, which is intended to make it difficult for the IDF to locate, attack and destroy the group’s military infrastructure,” Zamir stated, adding that by drawing Israeli fire to these buildings, Hamas aims to delegitimize Israel and the IDF.