by: Cheryl Hauer, International Vice President
As our world continues to get “smaller”—ostensibly bringing people closer together—it seems more and more nations are finding it necessary to build barriers to keep them apart. Currently, 77 countries have security fences and/or border walls, many of them nothing more than giant concrete barriers. Israel, though comparatively new to the fence-building community, has established herself as the builder and purveyor of the most cutting-edge, high-tech fence protection equipment in the world, and governments are knocking on her door, eager to put Israeli innovation to use. Interestingly, these are often some of the governments that have downplayed their own wall-building while vilifying Israel for erecting a supposed “apartheid wall.”
The Cutting-edge Anatomy of Protection
In 2016, Israel began construction of a new barrier surrounding the Gaza Strip. Since 2001, in addition to launching thousands of rockets into Israel—killing innocent civilians, traumatizing children and destroying thousands of acres of land—Hamas terrorists have created an industry of tunnel building. Hundreds of tunnels have been built for the sole purpose of infiltrating Israel with the aim of killing and kidnapping Israelis. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas made extensive use of its tunnel network to send fighters into Israel as well as move its operatives and munitions within the Strip. Israel’s new barrier, completed in 2020, promises three levels of protection from these kinds of terrorist attacks: a deep underground layer; an upper-fence physical layer and an above-ground high-tech layer.
The underground barrier is a sophisticated concrete wall that extends dozens of meters beneath the surface. It is lined with multidimensional sensor nets that detect any indication of digging near, at or under the barrier and alerts the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to the activity and its location. It actually extends into the Mediterranean to keep Hamas naval commandos from infiltrating from the sea.
To build the underground wall, the IDF used a powerful piece of German-made drilling equipment called a hydromill that digs deep, narrow trenches into the earth. In addition to creating the channel for the subterranean barrier, the hydromill also exposed any existing yet undiscovered tunnels along the border. The barrier was then surrounded by an absorbent clay called bentonite, which keeps the trenches from collapsing. It also indicated the presence of existing tunnels, which were then blocked with concrete. Additional metal cages with sensors were lowered into the concrete for more support. In October of 2020, the barrier thwarted its first tunnel, which had penetrated dozens of meters into Israeli territory.
In 2019, the IDF began the construction phase of the upper physical layer. It consists of a 20-foot (6-m.) high galvanized steel and mesh fence that sits on top of the subterranean concrete wall built to block the
creation of attack tunnels. According to the Defense Ministry, the new fence weighs approximately 20,000 tons and is equipped with a variety of sensors and “modern security components.” It is very similar, they say, to the barrier erected along the Egyptian border. That fence, built in 2014, stretches 150 miles (241 km.) from Gaza to Eilat and is equipped with information collection centers, detection devices and sophisticated warning systems.
Israeli leaders are being very tight-lipped about the components that make up the final upper high-tech layer of the Gaza barrier. We are told that it includes detection devices, making full use of robots, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and “more.” They are all outfitted with visual, electronic and intelligence equipment, powered by artificial intelligence and operated through command-and-control bases along the barrier. Experts speculate that Israel’s history-making drone swarm technology will be used as well. The swarms are made up of several different types of drones, able to exchange data and work as a single cooperative unit, and armed with thermal imaging, acoustic sensors and perhaps even “Spiderman” technology, which allows a drone to attach to a wall and use “through-the-wall” sensors.
Costing approximately NIS 3 billion (US $833 million), officials say the new barrier has already proved its worth as a part of Israel’s total fence protection doctrine on all of its borders, as laid out by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his 2019 National Security Strategy. To date, Israel has built more than 620 miles (998 km.) of fence along the borders with Egypt and Lebanon, with an 85-foot (26-m.) fence recently completed along the Jordanian border to protect civilian aircraft landing at Ramon International Airport in Timna. Internally, 370 miles (595 km.) of fence surrounds the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), while 68 miles (109 km.) of barrier protect the Golan Heights from infiltration by Israel’s enemies to the north.
Unfortunately, those enemies have made a strategic choice to use terror to achieve their aims, time and again forcing Israel to take severe and innovative action to save the lives of its people and maintain its own sovereignty. These fences have been extremely effective in reducing violence, preventing infiltration by terrorists, reducing smuggling and saving lives. The Judea and Samaria fence brought the number of suicide bombings to near zero. The Egyptian border fence has brought smuggling to negligible numbers. The new Gaza barrier has already proved itself in detecting and reporting tunnels, causing many officials to believe the problem has been nearly eliminated.
In discussing his fence protection strategy, former PM Netanyahu commented, “In our neighborhood, we need to protect ourselves,” and he was clearly convinced that fences and security walls were a necessary part of that protection. It is unclear if his vision of a fence around the nation will be realized as a new government is now in power. But it is clear that Israel’s need to protect itself is not about to disappear. That need must continue to be met—and at all costs.”
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