Occupied Jerusalem: Israel announced Sunday it had begun working on a barrier off the Mediterranean coast in Gaza.
The “new and impenetrable” barrier being built off the Zikim beach, a few kilometres north of Gaza, is in effect a fortified breakwater topped with barbed wire, the defence ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the breakwater - the first of its kind in the world - was expected to be ready by the end of 2018.
Israel claims the barrier is needed to prevent infiltrations from Palestinian fighters but rights groups say the move is yet another draconian measure to suffocate the already besieged population.
Israel is meanwhile continuing the revamp of its border fence with the besieged enclave - reinforcements include a new massive underground barrier.
The announcement of the sea wall comes after weeks of tensions on the Gaza border.
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.
No Israelis have been killed in the clashes.
The United Nations has accused Israel of using “excessive force” on the unarmed and peaceful demonstrators.
Low-level demonstrations along the border have continued since protests peaked on May 14, when at least 61 Palestinians were killed as tens of thousands of Gazans protested the provocative US transfer of its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem.
The announcement comes as Palestinians in the Gaza Strip say will try to breach Israel’s blockade by boat on Tuesday in a fresh challenge to Israeli occupation forces following weeks of deadly protests and clashes, organisers said Sunday.
Few details were given on the plans, but organisers said the boat would depart on at 11:00 am (0800 GMT) carrying patients needing medical care, students and job-seeking university graduates.
The boat also brings “dreams of our people and their aspirations for freedom”, organiser Salah Abdul Ati said in a press conference at Gaza City’s port on the Mediterranean coast.
He called on the United Nations and other international bodies to protect the boat leaving from the enclave run by Hamas.
Organisers said it would be the first attempt of its kind from the Gaza Strip.
Its intended destination was not announced.
Boats off the strip are generally limited to six nautical miles offshore, and the Israeli regime’s navy regularly fires at Palestinians who breach it.
The boat would likely face long odds at making it past Israeli occupation forces.
The plan comes ahead of the eighth anniversary on Thursday of a deadly raid on Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara - part of a flotilla of six vessels seeking to break Israel’s blockade and enter Gaza.
Nine Turkish activists were killed in the operation, and another died in hospital in 2014.