News / Middle East

Israel Builds Fence Along Sinai Border

Scott Bobb

A welder showers sparks across the seven-meter-high fence of galvanized steel mesh and coils of barbed wire in Israel's southern desert, bordering Egypt.

Israel began building the fence two years ago but workers now are rushing to complete it this year. The fence has taken on greater importance for Israel since Egypt's popular uprising ousted long-time President Hosni Mubarak a year ago.



The Egyptian government withdrew many of its security forces from the Sinai peninsula to deal with civil unrest and lawlessness in its cities.  As a result, Israeli commanders say the Sinai has become a security threat.

"This is a 'hot' border now and terror is on this border like any other border we have in Israel," said Israeli Army Lieutenant Colonel Yoav Tilan, speaking to reporters on a recent tour of the border area.

"And we are copying and modifying our techniques like in different other borders to this border, solely on the motive that this is now a terror-threatened border," he explained.

Growing border threat


Israeli commanders say they face some kind of security threat every day along this border, stretching from the Red Sea to Gaza.

The desert area has long been a route for smugglers, mostly marginalized Bedouins, who make a living trafficking in cigarettes and illegal drugs. During the 1990s, the border became a conduit for human trafficking, mostly women destined for the sex trade.

In recent years, increasing numbers of illegal immigrants, mostly from Africa, have tried to cross to Israel, fleeing political oppression or seeking jobs.

And since the fall of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Egyptian forces say they have intercepted Libyan weapons in the Sinai.

Tilan says the smuggling routes have now become part of the infrastructure for terrorism.

"These are terrorist organizations that move freely along the Sinai Peninsula, many cells, different organizations, with one motivation: to infiltrate this border and attack civilian and also military targets along this border," he said.

Deadly attack

Last August, gunmen crossed from Egypt and attacked Israeli civilians on a road near the border.

Eight Israelis were killed and 30 were wounded. Israeli forces pursued and killed three of the attackers; three Egyptian soldiers were killed in cross-fire.  The rest of the attackers fled back into Egypt.

Tilan said although the dead gunmen have not been identified, some of the ammunition they carried were traced to groups in Gaza.

He believes many of the terrorist organizations in the Sinai have links to extremists in Gaza, which is controlled by the Palestinian movement Hamas.

A senior Israeli commander, who could be quoted only on condition of anonymity, said Africa has become a center of gravity for terrorism as far as Israel is concerned.

As a result, the Israeli military has sent additional troops to the Egyptian border area and it is reinforcing the fence with electronic surveillance.

Countermeasures


But some old-fashion methods still prevail.  A dirt road about ten meters wide runs beside the fence on the Israeli side. It is covered with soft dirt. Its purpose is to show the tracks left by infiltrators.

Israeli Army Lt. Col. Salah el-Khayeb commands the tracking unit in the Israeli forces here. Its members are mostly from local Bedouin tribes.

El-Khayeb says every morning there is a patrol along the border and in every patrol there is a tracker who looks for signs or objects and determines whether there was an infiltration.

The smugglers use a variety of techniques to hide their tracks. These include walking on foam rubber strips or metal stands and using tree branches, cloth or even motorized leaf-blowers to erase evidence of their passage.

But El-Khayeb says a good tracker can still see spot remnants of such tracks.

Israeli commanders say infiltrations have declined significantly in areas where the fence is in place. But the barrier is only a third complete.

Israeli officers also say infiltrators are adapting, becoming more cunning, more rapid and more violent -- and using high-tech equipment like night-vision binoculars.

As a result, the Israelis are working closely with Egyptian security forces who, they say, have the same interest in halting the increasingly menacing traffic.

 

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid