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Israel-Egypt Barrier

The 240 kilometer long border between Israel and Egypt was fenced. The fence was going to cost NIS 1.35 billion. The plan and the funding was initially approved by the Israeli cabinet in March 2010. The new barrier along the border with Egypt would be built in an effort to protect the country from terrorist infiltrations, drug smuggling, border infringement, and human trafficking. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the «quantity of infiltrators will only increase, given the economic attractiveness of Israel». The border is 240-kilometers long from the Kerem Shalom outpost near the Gaza Strip, to Eilat on the Red Sea, and the security fence will include electronic warning systems.

In July 2010 MK Yaakov "Ketzele" Katz and MK Aryeh Eldad, both of the National Union Party decided to postpone the vote on the law authorizing the building of a border fence between Israel and Egypt. The delay came in order to allow the government to decide on the appeal submitted by the Minister of Finance, Yuval Steinitz. MK Katz heads a committee on the issue of illegal foreign workers entering Israel. Most immigrate from Africa through the border of Egypt. Some Knesset Members felt the fence will be too expensive.

Per the Camp David Accords, military border guards are not allowed on the Israel border. Border guards are allowed on the Gaza border and operate in central Sinai, at a significant distance from the Israel border area. Ministry of Interior border police officers man the 266 kilometer (141 mile) Egypt-Israel border area.

Egypt's border with Israel serves as a crossing point for African migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees searching for a better life in Israel and the West. The same border area also serves as a key transit point in the flow of illegal goods, drugs, and humans being trafficked to Gaza and Israel. Hafez Abou Seada, Director of the Egyptian Organization (EOHR) for Human Rights, told us on September 16 that interviews with migrants and asylum seekers, captured at the border and now being held in Sinai prisons, revealed that the route for "traffickers" and "smugglers" was the same. The African prisoners told EOHR representatives that goods and people are sometimes moved together and other times separately. According to Abu Seada, interviews revealed four nodal points in the movement of migrants. Migrants began their journey in Cairo, traveled to Ismailia where they crossed the Suez Canal, were taken by Bedouin across central Sinai to Bir Hassana, and from there to the Israel border. Migrants and asylum seekers told EOHR that Bedouin traffickers killed some African migrants for failing to pay the full cost of transit.

Relations between the Sinai Bedouin and the Government of Egypt (GoE) are historically tense. The Bedouin in central Sinai have few economic opportunities to dissuade them from smuggling drugs, food, weapons, and humans across borders into Israel and Gaza to support their families. Clan and family ties on both sides of the Egypt-Israel and Egypt-Gaza borders help facilitate the smuggling business. Recent Egyptian counter-tunneling measures in the Gaza border area appear to have reduced the flow of goods into Gaza and the incomes Sinai Bedouin gain from it. This may have increased overland traffic and tensions between Bedouin clans and Egyptian border guards along the Israel border.

On 02 January 2013 Israel completed the construction of the 230-kilometer (140 mile)-long security fence along the Egyptian border. Following the cabinet meeting on on 07 July 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks: ... "in the first half of the year, only 34 illegal migrants crossed the border. This is in comparison with 9,570 in the same period last year. We are talking about a reduction of over 99%. The fence that we built is making a significant contribution to blocking illegal migration to Israel. In practice, nobody has entered and the few who have arrived did not reach Israel's cities. The fence has completely stopped illegal migration to Israel, but it also has an additional function - namely counter-terrorism. You must remember that this fence is equipped with very advanced means. There is also a doctrine being developed to protect the State of Israel against the double threat of illegal migration and terrorism from Sinai. I think that every passing day underscores how correct and how important the decision was to build the fence in the south."

The Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority said 30 October 2016 that over the previous six months not one African asylum seeker had illegally entered Israel by climbing the border fence with Egypt. So far in 2016 only 18 African asylum seekers had entered the country without permits, the authority added. Since the beginning of 2013, only 302 people have made it over the border fence, compared with the thousands who entered Israel annually until 2012, when the fence was completed and the country’s new law on migrants was passed.

The fence is equipped with modern security systems and is designed to prevent Islamic militants, drug dealers, African migrants and asylum seekers from entering Israel from Egypt. The construction took two years and cost approximately $420 million. "This is a great achievement. You did the impossible. I would like to convey to you the gratitude of all Israelis," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the completion of the fence. "For seven months, not one infiltrator has reached Israel's cities,” Netanyahu said.

"The result of building the fence is that we have completely stopped the entry of infiltrators into Israel. In the past seven months, no infiltrators entered Israel's cities. Several dozen reached the fence each month and were taken to holding facilities. Not one infiltrator reached any community or city inside Israel. This was one of the largest engineering enterprises in the history of the State of Israel and I have directed that this team not be disbanded, but that it continue until the section in the area around Eilat is finished, which will occur in another few weeks, and even continue work along other borders, especially our border with Syria." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the construction of two fences along the Israel-Egypt and Israel-Gaza Strip borders where it is easy for terrorists and illegal immigrants to cross. In November 2010 the Defense Ministry ordered construction crews to establish a fence and barrier along the 200-kilometer border with Egypt. The first phase of the project, delayed for years, would cost $47 million and be completed by 2012. Some estimates suggest that 17,000 to 19,000 illegal immigrants have come into Israel via the southern border since 2005.

Since 2007 there has been a significant rise in the number of illegal border crossings into Israel across the Israel-Egypt border. This has resulted in the creation of a permanent group in Israel of infiltrators and asylum seekers who have received a temporary residency status since they are people who, in conformity with the UN Refugee Convention, may not be expelled. Some of those have been declared asylum seekers who, as a recognized group, have the right to temporary humanitarian protection. Infiltrators and asylum seekers from Africa pay ever increasing sums of money (about 2,000 to 2,500 US dollars per person) in exchange for being smuggled over the Israel-Egyptian border. In addition to this payment, some of the infiltrators and asylum seekers are held until they pay a ransom and are forced to pay significant additional sums in order to cross the border. At Saharonim, the infiltrators are held for a specific period of time, are registered and are given a hearing. The facility was opened in 2007 and was initially intended for 100 asylum seekers at most. By January 2011 there were 2,000 places in the facility and it was full.

Israel has been confronted with repeated terrorist attacks since its inception as a country. They are constructing a fence to deter terrorists that use the unsecured open border between Israel and Egypt as an easily accessible passageway into the country. The perpetrators of these attacks have often walked across the border and detonated bombs that have killed and injured hundreds. In recent years, Israel’s construction of a security fence along its border with the West Bank has denied terrorists easy access to the country and has significantly decreased the frequency of terrorist attacks. The Israel Security Agency reported 1,309 terrorist attacks in 2006, 946 terrorist attacks in 2007, 893 terrorist attacks in 2008, and 636 terrorist attacks in 2009.

As an immediate solution to the infiltration, and in an attempt to stop the flow into Israel, the Government passed Resolution no. 1506 on 14 March 2010 on "Constructing a barrier on Israel's western border." An inter-ministerial group, headed by the Director General of the Prime Minister's Office, was set up by the Government, which is monitoring the implementation of the Resolution. In mid November 2010, the construction of the barrier began. At a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Workers on 22 November 2010, the Director General of the Ministry of Defence, Udi Shani, announced that the fence is to be erected, at this stage, along 140 of the 250 km. length of the border; part of the route of the border will be closed with a physical barrier and part through electronic means.

Officials said a key problem would be the construction of a barrier on shifting sands with high winds. Officials said the entire barrier would cost 1.35 billion shekel, or $371 million, and was designed to stop massive infiltration from neighboring Egypt. The Interior Ministry had been lobbying the government to construct a prison for illegal migrants. The ministry said 1,100 infiltrators per month were entering southern Israel from Egypt. The military said the fence would span 240 kilometers from Keren Shalom in the north until Taba in the south. Parts of the border would comprise only a physical barrier, while others would also contain sensors.

The Government is implementing a plan to add an extra 1,000 places to the Saharonim facility and to establish an additional facility with 8-10,000 places for infiltrators and asylum seekers. The new facility will be six small facilities, each of them for between one and two thousand people. Each facility will be divided into a residential section and a section with special buildings for education, health, teaching and instruction and cultural activities, as well as a section where meetings will be held between the residents of the facility and representatives of the Ministry of the Interior, international organizations, foreign embassy representatives, lawyers and other individuals. In addition, areas will be prepared for cultural and leisure activities and sport. The facility will not be built like a prison or detention centre but it will be surrounded by a fence.

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Page last modified: 17-02-2017 19:32:36 ZULU