On Sunday, Israeli officials confirmed that the Jewish state's Defense Ministry had begun construction of a new 20-foot high steel security barrier. The Times of Israel reports that Israeli officials claim the new fence "will completely surround the Gaza Strip."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter on Sunday morning to share the news, emphasizing both the prophylactic nature of the barrier and Israel's continued resolve to act in Gaza to defend its sovereignty and protect its people, if need be. Netanyahu tweeted, "Over the weekend, we began building the above-ground barrier along the Gaza border. The barrier will prevent terrorists from Gaza from penetrating into our territory on the ground. If the quiet is not maintained in Gaza, we will not hesitate to act."
As The Times of Israel reports, the security barrier will enclose all 40 miles of Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the Sunni supremacist terror group Hamas. The security barrier, when completed, will sit directly atop Israel's previously completed subterranean concrete wall — built to thwart Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas's use of "terror tunnels" to infiltrate Israel and attack and/or kidnap Israeli civilians. The Times of Israel notes that Israel began construction on its initial Gaza barrier in 2016:
In 2016, Israel began construction of the new barrier around the Strip, focusing first on the underground portion, following the 2014 Gaza war in which Hamas used subterranean attack tunnels to deadly effect against Israeli troops.
Over the past two years, work has persisted on the underground sensor-studded concrete wall, despite regular riots and clashes along the border and occasional attacks on the construction sites.
As The Times of Israel also reports, the newly buttressed security barrier will be completed in 2019 and will cost approximately $833 million.
The overall Gaza barrier project is due to be completed by the end of 2019, according to the army.
"On Thursday, we began work on the final component of the Gaza Strip border barrier project. The obstacle is unique and specially designed to protect against the threats from the Strip and to give a superior solution to preventing infiltration into Israeli territory," said the head of the project, Brig. Gen. (res.) Eran Ofir.
The barrier project is expected to cost approximately NIS 3 billion ($833 million), with each kilometer of the underground portion of the barrier costing approximately NIS 41.5 million ($11.5 million). The above-ground fence is significantly cheaper, at just NIS 1.5 million ($416,000) per kilometer.
As The Jerusalem Post notes, the Gaza barrier will closely mirror Israel's preexisting barrier with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula — a barrier which "has slashed almost completely the number of illegal African migrants arriving in Israel." In 2010, Israel had nearly 15,000 illegal African immigrants enter via the Sinai. In 2016, there were 14 illegal migrants who entered Israel via the Sinai — and since 2016, there have been zero confirmed illegal crossings.
Israel has a robust history of successfully implementing security walls. Israel's security barrier erected around wide swaths of Judea and Samaria, implemented after the bloody Yasser Arafat-induced Second Intifada, is generally cited as slashing suicide bombings and other direct terror attacks within Israel by approximately 90%.