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Israel concluding work on Gaza Strip sea barrier

Construction could have knock-on environmental effects for Israel and the blockaded enclave, Israel's environment ministry has warned
Israel has built a 200m-long sea barrier next to Gaza (Israeli military)

The Israeli army has almost completed work on a 200-metre long barrier of boulders and concrete on the boundary with the Gaza Strip, Israel's Channel 10 reported. 

Israel announced work on the barrier in May, claiming it would prevent Hamas fighters from infiltrating Israel by sea as they did during the last war in 2014. It adds to the existing security fences and naval presence around the blockaded Palestinian enclave. 

The barrier consists of an overground fence and a combination of an underwater concrete wall and sensor systems, filling a gap in the shallow area of the waters where Israeli naval boats cannot operate. 

Translation: Today we began building a sea barrier one of kind in the world will block any possibility of entering Israel by sea. This further prevents Hamas, which is now losing another strategic asset after investing huge sums in its development. Will keep protecting Israel's citizens with power and sophistication.

Israel's own environment ministry warned that the barrier could damage Israel's beaches by altering natural sand deposits carried by the sea.

The Gaza Strip's sea should extend 20 nautical miles from the coast, according to the Oslo peace accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, but Israel has a heavy naval presence restricting any traffic in or out of the enclave. 

It also limits the distance Gaza's fishermen can travel to fish, alternating the distance between six and nine nautical miles - significantly less than the amount designated in the Oslo agreements. 

Israel has also been working on a new underground wall along Gaza's perimeter, which it says is designed to prevent Hamas building and using cross-border attack tunnels. 

Work began in summer 2017 with the aim of finishing mid-2019 and has involved destroying existing tunnels as well as installing sensors that could detect any tunnelling activity. 

Since 2007 the Gaza Strip has been under an almost complete air, sea and land blockade imposed by Israel in coordination with Egypt. 

Since 30 March, Palestinians in Gaza have protested against the blockade with weekly, and at some points daily, protests along the land boundary with Israel.

There have also been several attempts to break the sea blockade with boats carrying patients in need of treatment out of Gaza. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.