Israel Planning Fence on Egypt Border

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 5, 2007; 3:42 PM

JERUSALEM -- Israel is planning to build a sophisticated fence to prevent smuggling and infiltration across its long desert border with Egypt, an army publication reported, the latest effort to fortify the frontier.

"Bamahane," the army's weekly magazine for soldiers, said in its current issue that the border fence would have sensors to pick up attempts to cross and would include obstacles to stop infiltrations. The article gave no further details.

The 135-mile border cuts through desolate landscape at the edge of the Sinai Desert.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, and the border has never been heavily fortified. In some places, it is not even clearly marked. Israel sends only mobile patrols through those areas, leaving the border wide open for smugglers to bring in contraband, drugs, illegal workers, prostitutes and, most recently, refugees from Sudan.

There is also a security threat. In January, a Palestinian suicide bomber exited Gaza to Egypt, apparently through a tunnel under the border, made his way around to the Israel-Egypt border, crossed undetected and entered the southern Israeli resort of Eilat. There he blew himself up, killing three Israelis.

The Israeli military has long warned of arms smuggling across the largely unguarded border, supplying Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

The magazine quoted Col. Eitan Yitzhak, the commander of the southern sector's engineering corps, as saying the border must be made impenetrable. "We must make sure that we have the means to prevent terror attacks like the one that took place in Eilat," he said.

More attention has been given in recent years to the Gaza-Egypt border, the northern extension of the border with Israel. Digging dozens of tunnels over the past decade, Palestinians have smuggled in large quantities of weapons and ammunition. Israeli and Egyptian forces have been unable to stop the smuggling, though that segment of the border is only about 10 miles long, while the Israel-Egypt frontier is many times that length _ underlining the scope of the task to close it off to smugglers.

The magazine did not say when the fence construction would begin, how long it would take or how much it would cost. Previous plans to fortify the long desert border, with pricetags in the hundreds of millions of dollars, were never implemented.

© 2007 The Associated Press