Jerusalem: Israel is pushing ahead with a project to build a giant underground wall around the Gaza Strip to block tunnels that could be used for attacks, the army said on Thursday.
The project comes after the government faced heavy criticism over Hamas’s use of tunnels in the 2014 Gaza war, with a state inquiry earlier this year accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and army top brass of being unprepared for the threat.
“In the coming months, we are going to accelerate the construction of the barrier,” Major General Eyal Zamir told journalists.
“We hope that construction will be complete in two years.”
Army radio reported that the wall, comprising concrete planks and sensors, will stretch some 64 kilometres (40 miles).
It is expected to be some six metres (20 feet) high and 40 metres (130 feet) deep, and cost around three billion shekels (710 million euros, $834 million).
Construction Minister Yoav Galant said the wall will be built in Israeli territory parallel to the border fence sealing off the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas.
“The fact that the work will be located in our sovereign territory rules out any justification for attacks against those working there,” Galant told army radio.
Attack tunnels were a key weapon for Hamas during the 2014 Gaza war.
Hamas also built a vast network of tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle goods and allegedly weapons.
The Israeli army found and destroyed several tunnels during the 2014 war, while Egypt has also destroyed smuggling tunnels.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the Gaza Strip since the group wrested control of the territory from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in 2007.
The 2014 war killed 2,251 Palestinians and left 100,000 homeless, according to the UN.
On the Israeli side, 74 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers.