For two days hostilities ceased along a half kilometer stretch of the Gaza fence as Israelis and Palestinians jointly toiled to provide the strip with its first high speed internet service.
It will take another two weeks for the service to be up and running, said Maj. Adam Avidan who heads the foreign relations department for the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration to the Gaza Strip.
“It will allow Gazans to connect to the world, and hopefully to peace,” he said.
But laying 15 km. of new lines of optical cables onto an already existing 40 kilometer stretch, is not an easy task in an area that faces an almost daily barrage of mortars and kassam rockets from Gaza, he said.
For 10 hours on Wednesday and again on Thursday, workers wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets drilled and dug into the ground to lay the infrastructure the optic fibers.
Typically, Avidan said, this is a very dangerous stretch of the fence. Just 350 meters away is a Palestinian neighborhood el Haza, near Khan Yunis, “you can see the homes and the people,” he said.
“It can be a battle zone,” he added.
“But this is Israel’s answer to the hundreds of mortars, to connect the people in Gaza to the world,” Avidan said.
He added that Israel was fighting terrorists in Gaza, not its civilians.
Until now, he said, Palestinians in Gaza used an internet system from the 1990s, which is very old and very slow.
It provides improved telephone and cable services, fast internet and unlimited data services.
The Palestinian telecommunication company in the West Bank, PALTEL, and the Israeli company HOT jointly organized the operation with the help of the IDF, the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Administration, he said.
It informed its Palestinian counterpart of the operation, Avidan added. PALTEL funded the project.
In advance of the operation, four joint meetings were held with PAL, HOT and Israeli security representatives to coordinate all the details.
“It was all done under heavy security measures,” he said.
Many military personnel from the Tzabar battalion, which is part of the Givati infantry brigade, protected the workers, Avidan said.
“The whole operation was treated and run like a military operation,” he said. Everything, down to the last detail was arranged in advance, he said.