“There has not been an engineering feat in Israel this large since the days of
Herod,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday on a tour of the
newly completed 230-km. fence along the Sinai border.
who was shepherded through the massive, NIS 1.6 billion project, said the model
will now be duplicated on the Golan Heights border with Syria, and later on the
country’s eastern frontier.
“I think that the success here tells us that
we need to complete the work on the other borders, and in the future we will
close all of Israel’s borders,” he said.
Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen.
Yair Naveh said a similar barrier on the frontier with Syria was in the process
of being built, and should be finished by the middle of the summer to “preempt
the possibility of terrorist attacks against communities on the Golan
Work on the five-meter-high southern fence began in November
2010, and Netanyahu – who is touting the project as one of the major
achievements of his current tenure – has taken helicopter visits to various
points along the border to gauge the pace of work being done since
On Wednesday, Naveh told Netanyahu, “Mission
Nevertheless, another 13 km. in mountainous terrain near
Eilat still needs to be built. When that is completed in an estimated three
months’ time, the long stretch of border from Kerem Shalom, where Sinai and
Israel meet the Gaza Strip, to Taba, on the Red Sea, will be
Brig.-Gen. Eran Ofir, head of the project, told the prime
minister that “just as the Iron Dome defends Israel’s skies, the fence is an
iron wall defending Israel’s border.”
Netanyahu said the fence had two
primary objectives. The first was to stop the flood of African migrants into the
country, which he said would – had it not been stemmed – have posed a strategic threat to the
The prime minister said that at the height of efforts to
infiltrate the border last January, some 2,300 people were making their way
across the border each month. That number dropped to 36 in December.
as Israel succeeded in stemming the influx of migrants, he added, it will also
succeed in sending those already here back to their lands of origin. There are
an estimated 60,000 African migrants here, some 40,000 of them from Eritrea and
Sudan, countries to which Israel is unable to deport them.
Israel's 5 meter high border fence with Egypt.
month appointed former Mossad official Hagai Hadas to spearhead efforts to send
the migrants back home. He did not, however, provide any details on how those
efforts were proceeding, or which countries would be willing to take the
The fence’s second objective, Netanyahu said, was to combat
terrorist attacks originating from Sinai. Quoting OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen.
Tal Russo, who briefed him at the fence, the prime minister said there has been
a significant decline in attempted attacks from Sinai.
He attributed that
both to the fence and to November’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
prime minister briefly met with a few members of the IDF’s Rimon commando unit,
their faces partially covered in masks, established a couple of years ago to
patrol the southern border.
According to Defense Ministry numbers, the
new fence was built with 45,000 tons of steel, and enough earth was moved during
construction to fill 1.67 million trucks.
Some 100 contractors were
involved in the project, employing more than 1,000 people who – at times –
worked around the clock to finish ahead of deadline.
The Defense Ministry
said the fence was attracting interest from other countries facing similar
challenges from illegal infiltration, smuggling and terrorism. The barrier
includes the 5-meter steel fence itself, as well as a more rudimentary barbed
wire fence in front of it, a sand road for tracking, a patrol path, and
communications infrastructure including information collection points, cameras
and state-of-the art radar.