Friday, 18 November 2011

Israel’s Southen Iron Barrier: Building Aparthied One Wall at a Time

Israeli military Chief of Staff, Lt. General Benny Gantz (R) walks along the fence of the southern kibbutz of Sufa, not far from the Gaza Strip border. (Photo: AFP - David Buimovitch)

Published Friday, November 18, 2011

Originally intended as a barrier to keep out African immigrants, Israel’s colossal metal wall on Egypt’s border is being rushed to completion amid security fears.

The wall being built by Israel on the border with Egypt has returned to the spotlight after a number of Israeli officials raised concerns that recent events in Egypt represent a growing security threat.
Particularly worrying, according to the former defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, is talk of a possible confrontation with Egypt. The large metal barrier was originally intended to keep infiltrators out, but now it is needed for security reasons, according to army chief Benny Gantz.

The steel structure, which is now being built at a very fast rate, is one of Israel’s largest infrastructure projects.
According to Israeli media reports, the construction of the fence along the border with Sinai has been sped up recently. It is fast becoming a steel monstrosity, according to Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Haerel – almost 70km long.
Estimates have it that by next January, 100km of it will be completed. By the end of 2012, it will seal off the entire border with Egypt, which is around 240km long, excluding an area of 13km close to Eilat. The fence requires a special budget estimated at around US$54 million.

The steel structure, which is now being built at a very fast rate, is one of Israel’s largest infrastructure projects. This year alone, it gobbled up 12 million tons of iron, 15 percent of Israel’s annual consumption of the metal.

The fence is five meters high and twice the size of the apartheid wall Israel built in the West Bank. It is higher than all the fences built by Israel along its other borders.

In 2009, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the need to build a barrier against Sinai to stop infiltrators, but it acquired added urgency after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
Analysts in Israel believe that the practical ramifications of the revolution in Egypt have meant that transitional authorities have not been able to maintain security in Sinai. The brazen armed attack, carried out near Eilat on August 18, made Israeli officials turn decisively from talk to action.

Consequently construction of the fence, which began around a year ago, is now proceeding with speed. Dozens of bulldozers are now working on 50 sites along the border, building 800m of fence a day. Originally the fence was only intended to be 83km long, built along areas where African migrants crossed.

Statistics in Israel show that in the last year alone 13,500 people managed to cross the border illegally. It is expected that a similar number will do so again this year. Although many of these migrants come to Israel for economic reasons, the authorities increasingly view them as a security threat.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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