In world’s first, Israel building barbed sea barrier to stave off infiltrations from Gaza

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Israel is building the world’s first maritime barrier off the Mediterranean coast in an attempt to prevent possible infiltration by sea from the Gaza Strip, as authorities boost maritime security measures against Hamas amid high tensions on the border with the besieged enclave.

The “new and impenetrable” barrier is being built off the Zikim beach, a few kilometers north of Gaza, and will stretch out into the Mediterranean.

The structure is a fortified breakwater, consisting of three levels: an underwater layer, a layer of armored stone and a third one with barbed wires. The barricade will also be fenced off for good measure, the defense ministry said in a statement on Sunday, without specifying the length and depth of the barrier.

In the last Gaza war in 2014, Israeli forces killed four Hamas militants who had managed to infiltrate by sea. The incident prompted authorities to beef up security measures along the maritime border with Gaza. An underwater sensor system has been installed and training sessions against underwater infiltration are frequently held.

“This is a unique obstacle that will effectively prevent the possibility of penetrating Israel by sea,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement.

Construction of the breakwater was expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Israel is meanwhile continuing the revamp of its border fence with Gaza, with reinforcements including a new massive underground barrier meant to neutralize the threat of tunnels, amid heightened tensions.

On Sunday, Israeli tank shelling killed three Palestinians, two of whom have been confirmed as members of the militant group Islamic Jihad, in Gaza.

Israel’s military targeted an observation post, in what it said was a retaliation for a bomb that had been placed next to the border fence overnight. The bomb was detonated by army engineers, causing no casualties, the military said on Twitter.

Islamic Jihad is the second-most powerful armed group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, which runs the enclave.

The Gaza border has been the site of clashes and bloodshed in recent weeks. At least 119 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and more than 13,000 others injured since the “Great March of Return” began on March 30, according to figures from the Gazan health ministry.

No Israelis have been killed in the clashes.

Palestinians want about five million of their compatriots to be allowed to go back to the lands Israel had expropriated, but Israel has long resisted the calls, worrying that allowing them back in would affect its Jewish character.

Low-level demonstrations have continued since protests peaked on May 14, when at least 61 Palestinians were killed as tens of thousands of Gazans protested the US transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

(With input from agencies)