Barak renews Egypt border fence plan

Officials: Fence would begin in Eilat, and would gradually be completed along entire 220-kilometer border.

nitzana border 224.88 (photo credit: GPO [file])
nitzana border 224.88
(photo credit: GPO [file])
With Palestinian terror cells believed to have infiltrated the Sinai Desert, planning to target Israeli communities in the South, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has renewed an old plan to construct a security fence along the border with Egypt. According to the plans being drawn up by Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Pinhas Buchris, the fence would first be erected along the border close to Eilat and the town of Nitzana. Officials said the fence would then gradually be completed and run along the entire 220-kilometer border. One of the issues Buchris was investigating was the feasibility of constructing a simple chain-link fence without sensors, like the one along the border with the Gaza Strip. "There is no doubt that this is a security necessity," a defense official explained. "The question that needs to be answered is how much this will cost and whether the government will allocate the funds." During Sunday's cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Barak said the construction of a fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border was an "urgent need" that should not be delayed and that work should begin immediately on two sections of the border: at Nitzana and in the Eilat area. Vice Premier Haim Ramon came out in support of the idea, saying a fence would be a "cheaper option" than any other future steps Israel could take to secure the border. He also said the recent events in Gaza presented Israel with an opportunity now to conclusively "disengage" from Gaza. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer called for the construction of an electronic fence along the long Negev-Sinai border. Government officials said Sunday's discussion on the fence was a preliminary one, and that no decision had yet been made on the matter. A plan to build a fence along the Egyptian border came up immediately following the disengagement from Gaza in the summer of 2005, when security officials began warning of the creation of a "terror triangle" connecting the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Israel. With Israel out of Gaza and deployed tightly along the security fence, terror groups found it impossible to cross into the country in the traditional way - infiltrating settlements or IDF outposts inside and just outside the Strip. Now, their only way to attack Israel was with Kassam rockets - launched periodically at the western Negev - and by sending terrorists to the Sinai and then across the border and into Israel. With the attack scenario in hand, the IDF drew up a plan called "Hourglass," which called for the erection of an electronic fence along the border with Egypt, from Rafah to Eilat. In 2005, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the border and called for the establishment of a barrier in at least the 50-km. area near Eilat. In the end, however, the government transferred only NIS 100 million - out of the NIS 1.5 billion needed - for the entire project.