Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Security and military forces in Egypt have begun constructing a concrete wall on the border with the Gaza Strip.
Egypt began the first stage of construction on Jan. 27 on the approximately mile-long wall stretching from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Rafah border crossing. The barrier is set to be completed by the middle of 2020, security officials said.
Upon completion, the wall will stand 19 feet high and extend 16 feet into the ground while standing parallel with an older rock barrier built in early 2008 about 32 feet away.
The barrier is being constructed to block entry of gunmen from the Gaza Strip into Sinai and shut down the use of cross-border tunnels.
The Egyptian army announced it had discovered a mile-long tunnel between the Palestinian and Egyptian sides of the border city of Rafah on Feb. 3, hours after five Egyptian soldiers were killed by an explosive device in a town in North Sinai.
Security forces said the tunnel was intended "for the infiltration of terrorists from the Gaza Strip to plant improvised explosive devices on the Egyptian side and transporting weapons and explosives."
The second phase of the process will involve tightening control of separate border sections stretching from Rafah border crossing to the Mediterranean Sea-sectors, which the Egyptian army views as areas exploited for infiltration and smuggling to and from Gaza.