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Israel Builds Fence Along Sinai Border

February 21, 2012

Scott Bobb | Negev Desert, Israel

Israel's concerns about southern border security heightened last summer when gunmen crossed from Egypt and attacked Israeli civilians. Israel is building a seven-meter-high fence across the desert border.

Israel's new fence along its border with Egypt has taken on new importance since the popular uprising in Egypt prompted Cairo to withdraw many of its security forces from the Sinai to deal with civil unrest.

Lieutenant Colonel Yoav Tilan, an Israeli border commander, said, “This is a 'hot' border now and terror is on this border like any other border we have in Israel. And [as a result] we are copying and modifying our techniques like in other borders to this border solely on the motive that this is now a terror-threatened border.”

The area has long been a route for smugglers, and Colonel Tilan says terrorists based in the Sinai have links to the militant Palestinian faction Hamas in Gaza.

Security concerns reached a peak last August when gunmen crossed from Egypt and attacked Israeli civilians, killing eight and wounding 30 others. Israeli forces killed three attackers and three Egyptian soldiers died in the cross-fire. The road has been closed to the public ever since.

Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Salah el-Khayeb commands a tracking unit made up mostly of Bedouins, like many of the smugglers themselves. “Every morning there is a patrol along the border and in every patrol there is a tracker whose job is to look for signs or objects and to determine that there was not an infiltration into Israel," he said.

A senior Israeli commander said infiltrations have declined significantly in areas where the fence is already up. It is only a third complete and when it is finished, it will stretch 260 kilometers from the port of Eilat on the Red Sea to Gaza.

Israeli commanders also expect infiltrators to adapt to the new security measures. As a result, they are working closely with Egyptian security forces who, they say, have the same interest in halting the increasingly menacing traffic.

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