Gaza Sea Barrier Will Harm One of the Most Beautiful Beaches in Israel

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has sent a brief warning that the newly-erected barrier north of the Strip will reduce the width of Zikim beach by up to 50 meters for one kilometer

The sea barrier bordering Gaza.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The sea barrier erected by the IDF north of the Gaza Strip will reduce the area of one of the prettiest beaches in Israel, warns the Ministry of Environmental Protection in a brief it presented ahead of the erection of this barrier. Changes proposed by the ministry were rejected.

According to the Ministry, the barrier will reduce the width of the beach by up to 50 meters for one kilometer, due to a blocking of the natural flow of sand in the water. The Ministry of Defense claims that the implications are minimal and that it will monitor any changes in the contours of the shoreline.

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The IDF spokesman published photos of the barrier this week, announcing that progress was being made in its construction. When finished, the barrier will be 200 meters long and 50 meters wide. A six-meter-high fence will be built on top of it. The barrier abuts the southern end of Zikim beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Maritime structures on beaches block the movement of sand, which reaches Israel from the south. Any sand accumulating to the south of a structure is then lacking in adjacent beaches to the north of that structure. Thus, according to the Ministry for Environmental Protection, Gaza’s northern beach, which lies to the south of the barrier, will expand by up to 40 meters along a one kilometer strip.

The sea barrier bordering Gaza.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

“The issue is under the jurisdiction of the Defense Ministry and planning authorities,” said a spokesman from the Ministry of Environmental Protection. “The ministry handed in its recommendations, given from an environmental perspective, but it is not a member of a committee that deals with defense-related structures. According to the ministry’s professional opinion the barrier should have been planned in a way that would have allowed water and sand to pass through, even partially, in order to limit the accumulation of and drift in sand. The preferred alternative adopted by the ministry was not accepted by the planning authorities. A demand for monitoring the coastal area for six years and for undertaking actions to reduce the impact of the barrier was accepted.”

According to the Defense Ministry, the Coastal and Marine Engineering Research Institute at the Technion examined the impact of the barrier on the coast and surrounding areas. According to the ministry, “The impact will be minor and these changes would have happened even without the barrier, as part of a natural process. Nevertheless, this impact was taken into account during the planning stage, which lasted for two years.” This was done in collaboration with professionals at the Nature and Parks Authority, the Ministry for Environmental Protection, at the committee for defense-related facilities at the treasury’s southern branch and at the committee for the protection of beaches.”

The Ministry of Defense says it has reached understandings with the Nature and Parks Authority according to which it would “conduct measurements every two years as part of a monitoring plan aimed at establishing any changes in the shoreline and whether there is a need for complementary maintenance work along the beach.”

Dr. Yaakov Nir, a marine geologist and former researcher at the Geological Survey of Israel, said that already in the initial photos some sand accumulation could be seen on both sides of the base of the barrier. “Sand will continue to accumulate,” estimates Nir. “It was supposed to drift northwards and eastwards towards Israel’s beaches. Since an artificial structure was put up, creating a physical barrier on the beach and in shallow water, sand will accumulate on the southwestern side of the barrier, at the expense of beaches lying to the northeast, which will lose some of their width.”

The sea barrier bordering Gaza.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The Nature and Parks Authority says, “The authority understands that this barrier is a required measure for the protection of Israel’s citizens. However, at our request the issue was examined and debated, and it seems any impact will be restricted mainly to the shoreline. According to a professional opinion we’ve received ... assessments are that the impact will be limited.”