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Israel Warns Hamas Not to Try to Foil Anti-Tunnel Wall

By Reuters & The Jerusalem Post

Israel warned Gaza's Hamas rulers on Thursday not to try to foil its construction of a border wall designed to stop tunnels between the two sides. It said it had mapped terrorist emplacements hidden under civilian sites in the Palestinian enclave that may be attacked in any new war.

The unusually detailed Israeli threat followed a rocket launch on Tuesday which caused no damage in Israel and went unclaimed by Gazan groups. Israel responded with an air strike on a Hamas facility that medics said wounded seven people. Such flare-ups have been relatively rare since the last Gaza war, in 2014, with Hamas mostly holding fire and reining in smaller terrorist factions. But as Gaza's poverty and political drift deepens, both sides worry another conflict could erupt.

In September, Israel went public with a sensor-equipped underground wall being planted on its side of the 60 km- long border, a counter-measure developed after Hamas fighters used tunnels to blindside its troops during the war.

Israeli media published new disclosures by the military on Thursday about the project, costing $1.1 billion and to be completed within two years under an accelerated schedule. Israel has described it as a territorial counterpart to its Iron Dome short-range rocket interceptor, capable of blunting Hamas's limited means of challenging its superior armed forces.

"I think the other side will have to re-evaluate the situation in view of the barrier's construction," Haaretz newspaper quoted the chief of Israel's southern command, Major-General Eyal Zamir, as saying in the media briefing. "If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason [for Israel] to go to war over. But the barrier will be built."

The military also published aerial photographs and coordinates of two Gaza buildings that it said Hamas was using as cover for tunnel networks. One of these, it said, is a Hamas member's family home, linked to a mosque by a secret passage. "These two targets, as far as I'm concerned, are legitimate military targets, and in the event that a new war begins, anybody in them is endangering himself, his family, and the responsibility [for their well-being] will fall on Hamas," Zamir said in a separate briefing to foreign journalists.

A Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the Israeli statements "lies and fabrications that aim to damage the image of the Palestinian resistance and justify the mass killing of thousands of Palestinians civilians." More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the 2014 war, according to the Gaza health ministry. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.

A new buffer zone within Israel's territory, dozens of meters in width, will afford it extra time to respond by depriving Hamas tunnelers of targets on the frontier. Israeli media said on Thursday that the military also planned to build an underwater barrier in the Mediterranean to prevent infiltration from Gaza by sea.

The underground barrier designed to prevent tunnels from crossing into Israel from Gaza will stretch into the Mediterranean to stave off Hamas infiltration by sea. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, five Hamas frogmen (naval commandos) tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim before they were engaged and killed by the IDF. Hamas has significantly expanded their naval commando unit in the three years since the last conflict, with a reported 1,500 frogmen.

Israel's underground barrier, which has a system of advanced sensor and monitoring devices to detect tunnels, is made from European bentonite and is combined with a 6 meter high above-ground fence similar to the one which runs along the Israeli-Egyptian border.

Construction of the barrier is expected to cost over NIS 3 billion and be completed within two years. It began near Sderot last year and is led by Brig.- Gen. Eran Ophir, head of the army's fence-building administration. The IDF is confident that no tunnel will be able to cross the underground barrier, which it says will change the reality on the ground for both Israel and Hamas.

During the 2014 war, several soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen when they popped out of the numerous tunnels dug into Israel by the terror group, surprising the IDF and leaving the residents of border communities concerned about possible tunnels beneath their homes.

Hamas continues to invest significant amounts of manpower and money into their tunnel system. Zamir described it as a "metro system" of three different kinds of tunnels including smuggling tunnels with Egypt, tunnels inside the Strip used for command centers and weapons storage and offensive tunnels used for cross-border attacks into Israel.

According to Zamir, many of the tunnels run under civilian homes in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, he presented two residential buildings used by Hamas, including one which belongs to a family with six children and another six-story building built within the past two years.

"Any civilians who stay in these buildings endanger their lives and the lives of their families. It's Hamas who endangers them first and foremost, but every building over a tunnel is a legitimate military target," Zamir said. "Part of Hamas's combat strategy is to conduct itself within civilian areas, which is intended to make it difficult for the IDF to locate, attack and destroy the group's military infrastructure," Zamir stated, adding that by drawing Israeli fire to these buildings, Hamas aims to delegitimize Israel and the IDF.

But with Hamas bragging of continued work on its tunnel system and Israeli civilians living in border communities reporting hearing sounds of digging, work on the barrier is kicking into high gear. There are currently 10 areas along the border where hundreds of foreign workers, as well as German-made diggers and other heavy machinery, are working. By November, that number is expected to jump to 40 different locations.

Is the Car Next to You Made from Israeli Recycled Cans?


Israeli recycling corporation Asofta signed an agreement with the international recycling company Novelis and the British Recycling Agency, under which all recycled Israeli soda cans will be exported to Novelis' South Korea branch, to be made into cars and electronics.

According to the agreement, Asofta will clean and crush aluminum cans before shipping them to Novelis. According to Ynet, each ton of aluminum sells for approximately $1,000, and Asofta collects 750 tons annually, exporting 500 of them.

The US-based Novelis is one of the largest aluminum recycling companies in the world, with $11.1 billion in profits per year, and employees over 11,000 workers around the globe. Among their customers are Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Samsung.

Asofta, based in northern Israel and founded in 2002, expects that the deal will bring in two million shekels per year. The company currently has 30 vehicles for collecting cans and 60 collection stations around Israel.

Asofta CEO Yaron Bardugo told Ynet, "Every year, Israel sells 1.8 billion bottles and cans, including 400 million cans of soft drinks. Since the Israeli government mandated recycling, we have collected over 80% of these bottles and cans in our bins, transferring them to local recycling facilities."

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