A senior Israeli military official on Sunday said a massive underground barrier being built along the Gaza border to defend against Hamas tunnels should be finished in a matter of months, dealing what he said would be a serious blow to Hamas, reports the AP. The Southern Command official said the structure was at the forefront of a new effort meant to rob Hamas of one of its most potent weapons. During a 2014 war, Hamas militants on several occasions made their way into Israel through a tunnel network, though they did not manage to reach civilian areas. Israel destroyed 32 tunnels during that conflict, and since then has made neutralizing the tunnel threat a top priority.
The official said Hamas is now trying to restore its military capabilities, with its primary focus on building a subterranean warren of tunnels to hide from Israeli strikes and sneak into Israel to carry out attacks in a future round of fighting. In recent weeks, Israel is believed to have begun work on a 40-mile long underground barrier expected to stretch dozens of yards deep. Work crews have been spotted digging trenches and installing infrastructure in the ground. The official said the new wall will defend Israel's border with Gaza both above and below the ground. The army's goal, he said, is to turn the underground battlefield into a "death trap" for Hamas. "It will take time to build it. It's a big project. But it is a main goal," he said.