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The New Arab

Israel begins work on sea barrier to further isolate Gaza

Israel has imposed a land, air and sea blockade on Gaza for a decade [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 May, 2018

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Israel began building a sea barrier off the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv announced on Sunday, further isolating the besieged Gaza enclave.

Israel began working on a barrier off the Mediterranean coast to prevent the possibility of alleged infiltrations by sea from the Gaza Strip, Tel Aviv announced on Sunday, further isolating the besieged enclave.

The "new and impenetrable" barrier being built off the Zikim beach, a few kilometres (miles) north of Gaza, is in effect a fortified breakwater topped with barbed wire, the defence ministry said in a statement.

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

"This is another blow to Hamas, which will lose yet another strategic ability in which it invested vast amounts of money," he added, in reference to the governing Gaza body.

No other details on the project were provided.

The ministry said the breakwater  - the first of its kind in the world - was expected to be ready by the end of 2018.

The announcement comes as international activists began sailing toward Gaza in a four-ship Freedom Flotilla designed to challenge Israel's decade-old blockade of the besieged territory.

The al-Awda, Arabic for 'The Return', vessel set sail a week ago from Norway and linked up with three other boats in Copenhagen, Denmark on Sunday, before beginning a tour of European ports which will end in the Gaza Strip.

The boat was named to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe, in which more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcibly expelled from their homes during the establishment of the Israeli state.

This year's freedom flotilla comes just weeks after Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza protesting for the right of return, killing more than 60.

"The blockade of Gaza is in its 11th year. It is such a gross violation of international law that it can be characterised as a crime against humanity," participant Mikkel Grüner, a Danish national who is city councillor in Bergen, Norway, said.

Volunteers will join the multinational fleet for different legs of the journey, with a select group assigned to participate in the final run to Gaza.

The flotilla schedule will be kept confidential to guard against interference. In the past, mechanical failures have affected previous flotilla attempts, with allegations Israel may have tampered with the ships.

Reinforcements

Meanwhile, Israel is continuing the revamp of its border fence with the Gaza - reinforcements include a new massive underground barrier meant to ‘neutralise’ the threat of tunnels.

The announcement of the sea wall comes after weeks of tensions on the Gaza border, which has prompted global condemnation for Israel’s disproportionate use of force against Palestinian protesters.

At least 119 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip since mass protests and clashes broke out on March 30, according to figures from the Gazan health ministry.

At least 1,600 protesters have been wounded by gunfire or needed treatment for tear gas inhalation in the weeks of protests.

The Israeli army has claimed that its forces only open fire in self-defence or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the coastal enclave from Israel.

No Israelis have been killed in the clashes.



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