Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 10 announced plans for the construction of 70 miles of fence along Israel’s border with Egypt. In explaining the purpose for the barrier, which has an estimated cost of more than $400 million, Netanyahu said: “I decided to close Israel’s southern border to infiltrators and terrorists after prolonged discussions with Government ministries and professional elements. This is a strategic decision to ensure the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. Israel will remain open to war refugees but we cannot allow thousands of illegal workers to infiltrate into Israel via the southern border and flood our country.”
Israeli authorities estimate that 100 to 200 undocumented African migrants enter the country every week from Egypt, mainly in search of employment. The fence is expected to run 30 miles southeast from the Gaza Strip, and 30 miles northwest from the southern port city of Eilat. The gap between the two segments, around 100 miles in length, will be monitored by advanced surveillance equipment and radar.
Under pressure from the US and Israel, Egypt has already begun construction of an underground barrier to prevent tunneling by smugglers (which itself augments Israel’s wall on the Gaza-Egypt border strip, the “Philadelphi axis“). As much as 60% of Israel’s borders are closed by physical barriers, including its borders with neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, the Gaza Strip, and most of the West Bank. (Jurist, Jan. 10)