Israeli officials announce start of construction on new steel barrier along Gaza border

Photo of Israeli officials announce start of construction on new steel barrier along Gaza border
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Israel is working on its own version of a border wall. The Defense Ministry announced Sunday that it began building the above-ground portion of the Gaza border barrier, Haaretz.com, an Israeli news outlet reported.

How large is the fence?

The galvanized steel fence will span 40 miles and stand 20 feet high. Additionally, the western portion of the barrier will connect to the new sea barrier being built by the Israel Defense Forces.

The fence is designed to "prevent terrorists from Gaza from penetrating into our territory on the ground," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told media before the weekly cabinet meeting, the website France24 reported.

In addition, the structure is designed to prevent the construction of underground tunnels from Gaza. The project is estimated to cost the equivalent of about $833 million U.S. dollars. Its concrete wall will have sensors, according to Haaretz.

The project is expected to be finished by the end of 2019.

The Times of Israel explains the history:

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.

What is the background?

Palestinians have gathered along the Gaza border in numerous violent protests because they want to return to the land their families left during the war in 1948. They also want to end the blockade of Gaza by the Jewish state. At least 246 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since March 30. The majority happened during border protests but others were the result of "tank fire and airstrikes," France 24 reported.

Israel has said its actions are intended to defend its border and stop mass entry into its territory. Israel has also accused the terrorist group Hamas of attempting to use the protests as a way to incite violence. Since 2008, Israel has fought three wars with Hamas.

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