Israel’s Ministry of Defense has released the first images of a sea wall it’s constructing around the Gaza Strip, further isolating the besieged Palestinian territory from the international community.
Pictures posted to the ministry’s website and drone footage published on its YouTube channel on Sunday show construction vehicles working on an artificial stone land bridge jutting out from the beach into coastal waters.
Israel says the barrier is meant to prevent terrorist attacks from Gaza. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted: “We are continuing intensive work to build land and sea obstacles around Gaza. Hamas is losing its capability to attack Israel every day.”
The barrier is located on Zikim beach, approximately 3km (1.8 miles) from Gaza’s northern frontier, and construction has been ongoing at the site for the last two months, according to a ministry statement.
The ministry said the project was undertaken as part of the lessons learned from its 2014 war in the Gaza Strip and is designed “to withstand the sea conditions and serve the defense establishment for many years.”
Costing the taxpayer some $6.7 million, construction of the structure is expected to be completed by the end of the year, when it will stretch 200 meters out into the Mediterranean Sea.
The barrier will consist of three layers: an underwater base level; a 50-meter-wide sea-level platform made of armoured stone, and a six-meter-high barbed wire fence.
A further fence will also surround the barrier itself as “an additional security measure,” Brigadier General Eran Ophir, Head of Borders and Sewer said.
The blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt has been ongoing since 2007 when Hamas took control there.
A naval blockade limits fishermen to a distance of three nautical miles from the coast and the Israeli Navy actively intercepts foreign vessels attempting to break the siege.
Last week, two Swedish-flagged vessels from the Freedom Flotilla were intercepted in international waters as they tried to bring in much needed medical supplies to Gaza.
All goods must enter Gaza through Israeli checkpoints – where these supplies were diverted – so they can be checked for contraband and weapons.
The blockade devastated Gaza’s economy with high unemployment as well as energy and supply shortages commonplace.
A UN report in 2015 warned that Gaza was likely to become “uninhabitable” by 2020.