Israel has begun construction on an underground anti-tunnel barrier intended to keep terror tunnels from Gaza from stretching into Israel, the Ynet news site reports.

The first phase of the project, deemed by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Chief of Staff Gadi Eisencott the “largest project” to be carried out by the IDF, began in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council.

The region, located around the northeast border with Gaza, contains a number of towns at risk from tunnels.

Hamas confirmed in June that it is rebuilding its tunnels and residents of southern Israel’s communities bordering on Gaza have reported once again hearing digging sounds under their homes.

The project, which will see the construction of a barrier extending meters both above and below ground along the entire 60-kilometer border, is expected to cost at least NIS 2 billion (about $500 million).

The barrier is meant to prevent militants from entering Israeli territory and kidnapping or killing civilians and soldiers. In addition, it is designed to detect nearby digging and raise the alarm. It is set to include both physical barriers and technological detection systems to better protect against infiltration from the coastal enclave.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, used the cross-border tunnels to launch a number of attacks against Israel during the the 2014 50-day war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

Earlier this year, the IDF uncovered two tunnels that crossed into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip, the first such discoveries since the end of the 2014 conflict.

A tunnel discovered in April ran at a depth of approximately 30-40 meters (100 feet) below ground, extending dozens of meters inside Israel from the Gaza Strip.

In response to reports of the expansive border wall, a senior Hamas official and several other leaders of other Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, vowed to strike Israel should an underground barrier be built along the border.

Ismail Radwan in June told a Hamas-affiliated news site in June the project indicated Israel’s “failure to face the tunnels.” He stressed that the wall would “not limit the resistance’s ability to defend our people.”

Source: i24News / Times of Israel