Israeli defence ministry officials say work has begun on a wall deep underground along the border with Gaza for the purposes of thwarting infiltration by Hamas through its tunnels.
Israel’s barrier will eventually extend to about 37 miles along the border with Gaza and be equipped with sensors. It was designed, said officials, to replace the existing walls and fences bordering the coastal enclave of Gaza, which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians and has been ruled by Hamas since 2007. Reports in the Israeli media have suggested that the wall will cost close to $600m (£451m).
During the last Gaza war, in 2014, it was discovered that Hamas had dug numerous tunnels penetrating Israel to use to launch attacks. Since then the tunnels, and information the Israeli military and political leaders had about them, have become a divisive political issue.
Israel is now building an initial phase of the barrier over a small area of land. Work crews were busy along the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday using cranes and heavy machinery. Caravans were scattered around the site and large metal pipes were laid on the ground.
The officials, quoted on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified matter, said the barrier’s construction could take years.
At present, the Gaza border with Israel has various wall and fencing sections, with some areas protected by a double fence and military patrol road. Along some stretches young Palestinians have frequently jumped the fences in the hope of finding work on the other side of the border.