Helicopter Egypt Border 311.
(photo credit: Herb Keinon)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu traveled by helicopter down to an area some 60 kilometers north of Eilat on Tuesday, highlighting intensified efforts to build the 240 km.-long border fence with Egypt, and pledged that the project will be completed a year from today.
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This was Netanyahu’s third visit since taking office in 2009 to areas where the fence is being constructed.
While in the past the emphasis during his visits was on the need to construct the fence rapidly to stop infiltrators and illegal workers, with facts and figures given to reporters about how many illegal workers were infiltrating each month, now the emphasis was on getting the five-meter-high metal fence up to keep out terrorists, with little mention at all about illegal workers.
“I worked to build the fence first against infiltrators, and then against acts of terror.
Today the priorities changed, and now the project is first intended to stop terrorists and also, of course, infiltrators, and that necessitates some changes,” Netanyahu said.
A media blackout on Netanyahu’s morning visit to the site along the Egyptian border, not far from the site of the terrorist infiltration last month that killed eight people, was in effect until after the prime minister returned to Jerusalem in the afternoon. The security forces took strict measures in the middle of the desert to protect the prime minister, including placing gravel- filled semi-trailer trucks in a semi-circle around the tents where Netanyahu held briefings.
Originally planned for completion at the end of 2013, Netanyahu said the date for completion of the fence has now been pushed up to September 2012. He said that during each of his visits, he tries to speed up work on the project.
So far 50 km. of the fence – stretching from Kerem Shalom in the northern Negev to within 10 km.
north of Eilat in the south – has been completed. Difficult terrain around Eilat precludes construction of a physical barrier there, so instead an “electronic barrier” is being erected.
The fence Netanyahu looked at on Tuesday is in actuality a multi-layered barrier that includes barbed wire rolls in front of a fivemeter- tall metal fence topped with razor-sharp edges. On the “Israeli side” of the fence is also a sandpath for trackers, and an asphalt patrol road. The entire barrier is monitored electronically.
Netanyahu said his visit to the site, just days after the ransacking of Israel’s embassy in Cairo, was not intended as a message to anyone. The visit, he said, was planned weeks ago as part of his efforts to push this national project forward.
The prime minister said that the border with Egypt is a border of peace.
“In order for it to remain a peaceful border, we need to strengthen security. In order to strengthen security, we need to strengthen the fence and speed up its completion.
In order to strengthen the fence, we need additional resources and forces. All of these things are coming together now. It is important to security and peace.”
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo said that when the project began last year, it was clear that “we were in a race against the clock, and now even more so we are in a tremendous race to build a border here. It started with the infiltrators and then a few months ago, the challenge became stopping terror attacks.”