(photo credit: )
Egypt has expressed newfound interest in allowing Israel to construct a moat along the Philadelphi Route separating the Sinai Desert from the Gaza Strip to combat Palestinian weapons smuggling, senior defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post.
The Philadelphi Route is riddled with as many as 30 active tunnels used by Palestinian terror groups to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.
In 2006, for example, 30 tons of high-grade explosives were smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) claims.
Last month, OC Planning Division Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan traveled to Egypt for talks with security officials there about areas of cooperation with Israel.
Ever since the withdrawal from the Sinai Desert under the Camp David peace accord in 1982, Israel and Egypt defense officials have held annual meetings to coordinate security matters affecting the two countries.
According to a defense official involved in the talks, Nehushtan raised the possibility of the moat with the Egyptians during his recent meeting with them and was told that they would consider it positively.
The official explained that the moat was back on the table after the Egyptian border police force of 750 soldiers had proven inadequate in the fight against the tunnel operators on the Egyptian side of the border. "The moat option still exists," the defense official said.
In 2004, the Israeli Defense Ministry issued a tender for the digging of the moat along the border. The specifications given at the time were that the ditch would be four kilometers long, 25 meters deep and 100 meters wide.
The purpose of the moat would be to force weapons smugglers to tunnel deeper and longer, which would be more difficult and make it easier for the IDF to detect. The cost of the project is estimated to be tens of millions of shekels.