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Cairo – Reports that Egypt is building a steel underground wall along its border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have fueled speculation about what exactly Cairo intends to accomplish with the project, which British newspapers claim is being carried out with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The immediate objective is obvious: to severely disrupt the flourishing smuggling trade carried out in an extensive subterranean network of tunnels under the border. The smugglers provide everything from food to weapons for Gazans, who are largely cut off from the outside world due to an Israeli blockade.
The new initiatives - which the lawmaker announced Sunday after meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak - followed a campaign in the U.S. Congress to withhold some of the $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt until the government makes a number of reforms, including stopping arms smuggling to the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June.
The U.S. delegation was said to have examined the reconstructed Egyptian border fence along the Gaza Strip. The sources said the delegation did not interview local Egyptian commanders.
Earlier in May, the same delegation visited the Gaza and Israeli borders. At the same time, the U.S. Army was said to have begun training Egyptian officers to stop weapons smuggling and infiltration into Israel and the Gaza Strip.
In early 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drafted a geological assessment of Palestinian smuggling networks. The Bush administration has approved $23 million for Egypt to procure advanced detection equipment and robots to block smuggling.
09 December 2009
CAIRO: Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is mulling the construction of a security fence along the border with Egypt to halt smuggling and attempts by African migrants to enter Israel.
The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had approved the construction of the security fence after discussions with cabinet members over the increased numbers of Africans seeking to enter Israel via the border with Egypt.
"The only place in the world where it takes tens of meters walk to cross from the third world to the first world is Israel's southern borders," the prime minister reportedly said during the discussions.