The Israeli Ministry of Defence held a ceremony yesterday marking the completion of building a new security barrier on the Gaza border.
- The barrier took 3 and a half years to build and runs across the full length of the border, a total of 65km. It cost 3.5bn NIS (around £850m).
- It consists of an underground component with sensors, an above-ground smart fence over 6m high, a naval barrier, radar systems and command and control rooms to prevent infiltrations from the Gaza into Israeli territory.
- Speaking at the ceremony, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said: "The barrier, which is an innovative and technologically advanced project, deprives Hamas of one of the capabilities it tried to develop, and places an ‘iron wall’, sensors and concrete between the terror organisation and the residents of the Israel’s south. This barrier will provide Israeli citizens a sense of security and will enable this beautiful region to continue developing and flourishing.”
- Gantz added: “Routine life here (in southern Israel) is our victory, and it is the greatest threat to terrorist organisations. We will continue to maintain our readiness to thwart any attempt to harm Israeli citizens, with an emphasis on rocket attacks from Gaza. We will also prevent the transfer of Iranian know-how and technology to Gaza and will continue thwarting any attempt by Hamas to operate its affiliates in Judea and Samaria or anywhere in Israel. Their attempts have failed time and again.”
- On Monday, Palestinian sources reported that Hani Salah, an operative of Hamas' military wing, was killed after a tunnel in the Tufah neighbourhood in Gaza City collapsed, likely due to the rain.
Context: The barrier is a non-lethal approach to prevent infiltrations and terror attacks. During the construction, 20 Hamas terror tunnels, dug towards Israel, were exposed and blocked.
- The technology in the underground barrier includes sensors and radars meant to prevent any future attempts to tunnel into Israel.
- The underground barrier was built with 220,000 trucks worth of concrete, over 2 million cubic meters, and 40,000km of Iron (enough to build a line of Iron from Israel to Australia). It has no offensive capabilities.
- The barrier will also prevent above-ground infiltrations and will provide a more robust defence than the old fence that faced numerous efforts to be breached over the last three years during rioting. Notably in August an IDF officer was shot at point blank range during a protest at the fence.
- Hamas has used tunnels for decades. During the 1990s, the main focus was smuggling goods from Egypt. Since early 2000s, Hamas upgraded the tunnels to be used for attacks inside Israel.
- The last tunnel found by the IDF in November 2020 that crossed the border was about 75m below the ground.
- In the May 2021 conflict, the IDF’s primary goal was to destroy the “Metro system” - a labyrinth of connected tunnels underneath Gaza. There were also two tunnels close to the border that were targeted.
- Since May, Israel in coordination with Egypt, has made efforts to improve conditions in the Gaza Strip. This includes allowing a flow of goods to enter and expanding the fishing zone. In October, an additional 3,000 Gazans were given approval to enter Israel, bringing the total to 10,000 daily permits, the highest number since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.
- Yesterday Al-Jazeera released comments from an anonymous senior Hamas official saying: “We are examining the possibility to escalate tensions with Israel in light of the ongoing siege on Gaza and the delay in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip.”
- He likely remained anonymous as he was also critical of Egypt, saying: “The behaviour of the Egyptian mediator is unsatisfactory, to say the least. He is dragging his feet in regards to his promises to Gaza. Egypt is not meeting its commitments to Hamas and the Palestinian factions regarding the reconstruction efforts and easing of restrictions on Gaza. Egypt continues to abuse Palestinian passengers on their way to Gaza. Egypt continues to prevent thousands of Gazans from leaving the Gaza Strip.”
Looking ahead: Israel will be hoping the new barrier will compliment efforts to reach a long-term cessation of violence.
- Gantz also said in his speech: "In order to change the reality in Gaza, our demands are simple and clear - halting Hamas’ military build-up, long-term quiet, and the return of our boys. We are working tirelessly to achieve this. I advise Hamas to deal with these issues and not focus on threats."
- Reaching a long-term truce will be impossible while Hamas continues to hold two Israeli civilians hostage and the bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers since 2014.
- Israel is planning to build a similarly sophisticated fence on the Lebanese border.