The Israel–Egypt barrier (or Israel–Egypt border fence; Project name: Hourglass, Hebrew: שְׁעוֹן הַחוֹל, Sha'on HaḤol, lit. sand clock) refers to a border barrier built by Israel along sections of its border with Egypt. It was originally an attempt to curb the influx of illegal migrants from African countries. Construction was approved on 12 January 2010 and began on 22 November 2010. However, following increased insurgent movement across the southern border in 2011, Israel upgraded the steel barrier project to include cameras, radar and motion detectors. In January 2013, construction of the barrier was completed in its main section. The final section of the fence was completed in December 2013.
A number of countries, including the United States and India, have sent delegations to Israel to study border security and the various technologies used by the IDF to secure Israel's borders, including the Israel–Egypt border. Some of these countries may implement these technologies as part of their own border fences.
About 152 miles (245 km) long, the fence from Rafah to Eilat took three years to construct, at an estimated cost of NIS1.6 billion ($450 million), making it one of the largest projects in Israel's history.
An old rusty low fence swamped by shifting sand dunes has existed along Israel's Sinai Peninsula border with Egypt, mainly serving as a marker between the two countries. Smuggling of cigarettes and drugs often carried on camels by Bedouins whose tribal lands straddle the border, has been a long-term problem. In December 2005 armed infiltrations into Israel along the porous border led to calls for the construction of a security fence. The Israeli government decided in the late 2000s to build the barrier.
The barrier was originally planned in response to high levels of illegal migrants who successfully entered Israel across the border, mainly smuggled by Bedouin traffickers, from Eritrea and Sudan. Tens of thousands of people try to cross from Egypt's Sinai peninsula into Israel every year, predominantly economic migrants. During Hosni Mubarak's regime, Egyptian border guards sometimes shot African migrants trying to enter Israel illegally. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the barrier is meant to "secure Israel's Jewish and democratic character." The 2011 Egyptian revolution, the demise of Mubarak's regime, increased lawlessness in the Sinai as well as the 2011 southern Israel cross-border attacks led to the project's upgrading with surveillance equipment and its timetable for completion being expedited.
The fence has two layers of fencing, one with barbed wire. The structure includes the installation of advanced surveillance equipment. Eventually the whole border will be sealed. The project was set to cost 1.6bn shekels.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the construction site in March 2012; by then nearly 105 km of fence had been built by 30 contractors working concurrently and building several hundred meters of the fence every day. The goal was to finish the remaining 135 km, including those running through the mountainous area of Sinai, in 2012. Construction of the main section was completed in January 2013. 230 km of fence had been built by then.
Egypt said it would not object to the fence's construction so long as it was built on Israeli soil.
While 9,570 citizens of various African countries entered Israel illegally in the first half of 2012, only 34 did the same in the first six months of 2013, after construction of the main section of the barrier was completed.
Interest by other countries
A number of countries have sent delegations to Israel to study border security and the various technologies used by the IDF to secure Israel's borders, including the Israel–Egypt border. For example, a delegation from India arrived in August 2012 to study these technologies that are used to secure the borders with the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Egypt, which may be implemented as part of India’s own fence with Pakistan and Bangladesh. The interest in Israeli border security increased since the construction of the fence along the Israel–Egypt border. The United States, which occasionally adds to a partial barrier along its border with Mexico, is also following Israel’s decisions on border security closely.
Media related to Israel-Egypt border fence at Wikimedia Commons
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- Butcher, Tim. Sharon presses for fence across Sinai, Daily Telegraph, December 07, 2005.
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