For illegal workers, terrorists and smugglers, Sinai border is wide open

Hours before a terrorist entered from Egypt on Sunday to carry out an attack on an Eilat bakery, 23 people were caught trying to illegally enter Israel via that same border.

January 31, 2007 00:23
2 minute read.

Hours before a terrorist entered from Egypt on Sunday to carry out an attack on an Eilat bakery, 23 people from Georgia, Turkey, the Ivory Coast and Uganda were caught trying to illegally enter Israel via that same border. Groups trying to enter from Egypt in search of work are caught every few weeks, according to the Interior Ministry. "This time the group included a minor, which is very unusual. The minor and his father came from Turkey and claimed they wanted to be united with the mother of the family and a daughter, who are also staying in Israel illegally," an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said. "The border between Israel and Egypt is easy to cross, there is no real barrier, just a low fence," Yossi Edelstein, supervisor of the Foreigners Enforcement Department in the Interior Ministry, said Monday. Weapons, ammunition and drugs are smuggled into Israel from Egypt on a regular basis, he said. "The security forces prefer to address these matters first, and only then do they deal with those entering Israel to find work, mostly from Eastern European countries, and even from countries with which Israel has no diplomatic ties, like Sudan," he said. Illegal aliens from countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel are normally sent back. However, those from countries that do not recognize Israel are detained, often for long periods, since it is often difficult to deport them. Trafficked women are also often smuggled across the Egypt-Israel border and then installed in brothels around the country. Most approach the border on foot before trying to cross into Israel, and they are often robbed and otherwise exploited on the way. Many of those caught and deported do not hesitate to try again and again. "They know the cost but still they come back, because here they can earn money and provide for their families. It is an endless circle," Edelstein said. Military sources confirmed the border fence was ineffective. "There was nothing exceptional about the group of illegal aliens who were caught on Sunday, except perhaps for how many there were," a military source told The Jerusalem Post. "It is clear to us that borders without fences cannot stop illegal aliens or terrorists. The vast majority of terror attempts are stopped and there has been an increase in overall effectiveness, but it is still a drop in the bucket." According to the military source, most terrorist infiltration starts in the Gaza Strip, passes through Sinai, and then enters Israel. This was probably the route taken by Monday's suicide bomber. More than a hundred people involved in terrorism have been caught at the Egyptian border over the past year. "Right after disengagement, both the Gaza Division and Division 80 [the two divisions which guard the border with Egypt] expanded its area of operation and doubled its strength," the official said. The source said a second division would be stationed on the western border in a month. There is also a plan to install barriers in the more-easily crossed areas, but it is on hold because of a lack of funding.

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