JERUSALEM – Israel has started to build a new fence along its border with the Gaza Strip in a bid to prevent infiltrations, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday.
The Gaza-Israel border has been witnessing weekly rallies by Palestinians who have been demonstrating to demand their right to return to their former homes in Israel.
“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,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.
The new six-meter-tall (19-feet-tall) fence, built with cement, will replace the existing one, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The Israeli army on Sunday arrested five Palestinians from Gaza, some of whom were carrying knifes and pliers, near the border fence, The Times of Israel reported.
Besides the terrestrial fence, Israel has set up another two; an under-construction sea barrier of 200 m in length, 50 m in width and six m in height, and an underground barrier measuring some meters in length, although the army has not said exactly how long it is, as part of its efforts to detect and destroy tunnels seeking to reach Israeli territory.
“I would also like to make it clear, if the quiet is not maintained in Gaza, we will make the decisions even in the elections period and will not hesitate to act,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister was referring to the snap general elections scheduled for April 9.
During the weekly rallies that started on March 30 as part of the so-called Great March of Return, a total of 240 Palestinians were killed, according to figures from the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Besides demanding the right to return to their former homes, the Palestinian protests also aimed to press the Israelis to end a blockade they imposed on Gaza in 2007.
An Israeli soldier was killed near the border with the Strip and another in an undercover operation carried out by the army.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for inciting the rallies and taking advantage of them to infiltrate the neighboring country.