Israeli defense officials on Thursday said the government has begun work on a massive underground barrier along the border with Gaza meant to block Hamas militants from tunneling into Israel.

The project is the hallmark of a huge Israeli effort to halt the Hamas tunnels, which military officials have identified as a strategic threat. Hamas militants have used underground tunnels to attack Israelis.

During a 2014 war, Hamas militants managed on several occasions to make their way into Israel through their tunnel network, though they did not reach nearby civilian areas.

Israel destroyed some 32 tunnels during that conflict and has announced the discovery of several more tunnels since then. As a result, the military has invested great efforts in technologies to detect, destroy and block them. Israel has already surrounded Gaza with a sophisticated above-ground fence fortified with sensors, cameras, barbed wire and watch towers.

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