Israel fence construction completed with Egypt; plans for new fencing with Syria
(7 January 2013)
Israel has announced that the number of migrants crossing from Egypt has been reduced to zero in late December 2012, following the completion of a 150-mile fencing project on its border with Egypt. The Israeli Defence Ministry has stated that the purpose of the fencing is to halt the "unfettered flow of illegal infiltrators, the smuggling of drugs and weapons." The fence stretches from the town of Eliat, on the Red Sea, to the Gaza Strip and the Mediterranean, and has been constructed over the past two years at a cost of 1.4bn shekels (£240m). Approximately eight miles remains unfenced near Eilat due to the mountainous terrain found there. In the lead-up to national elections on 22 January, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also toured the new fence. The Israeli government has recently been carrying out large-scale repatriations of failed asylum-seekers – referred to as ‘illegal infiltrators’ by the Prime Minister – totalling more than 9000 deportations in 2012, predominantly to African countries. It has been reported that in January 2012, previous to completion of the fencing, approximately 2,295 migrants had entered Israel from Egypt across this border.
On 6 January Prime Minister Netanyahu announced construction plans for fencing along the armistice line with Syria in the Golan Heights, similar to the fencing constructed on its southern border with Egypt. The decision has reportedly been made due to concerns of the Israeli government over infiltration and terrorism from jihadist groups in Syria, following a weakened presence of the Syrian Army in the region, as well as the possible apprehension of chemical weapons by rebel groups there. Netanyahu was quoted as saying on 6 January that, "We intend to erect an identical fence [to the fence found on the Egyptian border], with a few changes based on the actual territory, along the Golan Heights. We know that on other side of our border with Syria today, the Syrian army has moved away, and in its place, global jihad forces have moved in." Israel has also recently deployed additional army troops to the area. Following the breaching of the frontier in 2011 by Palestinian protestors, the Israeli government has already constructed border fortifications in the region, nearby to Majdal Shams, covering approximately six miles. Israel annexed the Golan Heights following its seizure from Syria in the 1967 war, though this remains unrecognised internationally, and the two countries remain technically at war.
Sources: ‘Israeli fence construction cuts off migration from Egypt’, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, 31 December 2012; ‘Israel completes most of Egypt border fence’, Batsheva Sobelman, Los Angeles Times, 2 January 2013; ‘Israel plans to construct a Syrian border fence’, Isabel Kershner, New York Times, 6 January 2013; ‘Israel to build border fence between Golan Heights and Syria’, Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, 6 January 2013.