In December 2009, Egypt started with help from the US, the building of a steel wall along the Gaza border. If it is finished, the wall will be 10-11 km (6-7 miles) long and extend 18 metres below the surface. The wall was to complete in 18 months.
Egypt has reinforced the border with several hundred troops to protect construction crews from Palestinian sniper attacks.
Palestinian sources said that construction of the barrier was damaging dozens of smuggling tunnels as deep as 30 meters, causing them to collapse on a nearly daily basis and killing operators, especially tunnels near the Rafah border terminal. They added that most of the 1,500 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt remained unaffected. The sources also stated that the project has alarmed the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, which charges an annual $2,500 for the right to operate a tunnel.
According to analysts at a January 2010 Egyptian security conference, the barrier reflects Cairo's concern that al Qaeda-inspired militants from the Gaza Strip will infiltrate Egypt after being forced out by Islamist militant group Hamas, the de facto governing authority in the Strip. The analysts said Egypt could become a haven and a battleground for small Salafist militant groups such as Jund Ansar Allah, Jaysh al Islam and Jaljalat, which have been squashed by Hamas since it took control in 2007.
The barrier has proved to be of little effect, with it being "breached hundreds of times" according to an Egyptian security official.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared support for the barrier, adding: "It is the Egyptians’ sovereign right in their own country. Legitimate supplies should be brought through the legal crossings."
Cairo's main Al-Azhar University officially backed the government's decision saying that it was the "state's right to build along its walls facilities and obstacles that will enhance its security."
The Islamic Action Front (IAF), a Jordanian Islamist group, criticized Egypt for the barrier and accused it of "collaborating" with Israel and the United States. "The Egyptian authorities are ...increasing the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza by building the steel wall and closing the border crossings with Gaza," said Hamzah Mansour, a member of the Shura Council of the IAF.
A number of prominent Muslim clerics issued edicts against the wall, while Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, voiced his objection to the wall. In January 2010, small protests against the wall were held outside the Egyptian embassies in Jordan and Lebanon.
In a Palestinian demonstration along the border, an Egyptian border guard was shot dead and 20 Palestinians were injured from Egyptian fire.
- Fraser, Christian. Egypt starts building steel wall on Gaza Strip border. Christian Fraser, BBC, 9 December 2009.
- Construction of Egypt's security wall causes collapse of smuggling tunnels, World Tribune 13-01-2010
- Egypt at risk of militant flow from Gaza -analysts, Reuters 28-01-2010
- Gaza smugglers breach Egyptian barrier, Ynet, 22 July 2010.
- [Mahmoud Abbas: Israel's West Bank occupation leading to one-state solution], The Guardian 31-01-2010
- US supports Egyptian underground barrier on Gaza border, Ynet, January 12, 2010
- Nahmias, Roee. Arab protests against Egypt's Gaza border wall spread, Ynet, January 4, 2010
- Hezbollah chief asks Egypt to stop Gaza border wall, Ynet, December 27, 2009
- IAF slams Egypt's building of steel wall along borders with Gaza, 10-01-2010
- Egyptian border guard shot dead at Gaza frontier, Ynet, January 6, 2010