Israel to build underground barrier against Hamas

It will run extend dozens of metres below ground and is expected to stretch the entire length of the roughly 70-kilometre border with Gaza.

JERUSALEM // Israeli has begun work on a massive underground barrier along the border with Gaza to block Hamas militants from tunnelling into the country.

Israeli defence officials said work on the underground barrier had begun in recent weeks. It will run extend dozens of metres below ground and is expected to stretch the entire length of the roughly 70-kilometre border with Gaza.

The curent phase of construction extends across a small stretch of land measuring dozens of metres.

At Kibbutz Erez, a community on the border with Gaza, work crews were busy on Thursday using cranes, heavy machinery and cement mixers. Caravans were scattered around the site, while large metal pipes ran along the ground.

An Israeli political source said the government has already budgeted about US$160 million (Dh588m) to build one section of the underground barrier.

During the 2014 war on Gaza, militants from Hamas, the movement that rules the territory, managed on several occasions to make their way into Israel through their tunnel network, though they did not reach nearby civilian areas.

Israel destroyed some 32 tunnels during that conflict and said it had discovered several more tunnels since then. As a result, the military has invested great efforts in technologies to detect, destroy and block them. Israel has already surrounded Gaza with a sophisticated above-ground fence fortified with sensors, cameras, barbed wire and watch towers.

Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said the group would not be deterred. “The Palestinian people and the resistance can overcome all the obstacles made by the occupation. The resistance is creative and advanced and doesn’t care about the occupation’s procedures,” he said.

Israeli officials said the barrier’s construction could take years.

* Associated Press and Reuters

Published: September 9, 2016 04:00 AM

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