Thursday, January 21, 2010

Netanyahu: Situation at Egypt border worse than I thought

(Haaretz).Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed on Thursday by top military commanders who are overseeing the construction of a fence that will run along Israel's border with Egypt so as to prevent the infiltration of migrant workers and terrorists from Africa.

The premier toured the border area of Har Sagi, which sits a few kilometers from Israel's southernmost city, Eilat. Netanyahu also met with Israel Defense Forces commanders near the Gaza-Israel-Egypt boundary line.

"The situation is more grave, given the danger of terrorists and infiltrators, than I originally thought," Netanyahu told reporters.
The premier received an assessment of the situation from IDF GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant, deputy chief of staff Benny Ganz, and the commander of the IDF's 80th Division, Brigadier-General Tamir Yadai.

"We must reinforce the border and it will be possible to minimize the infiltration of terrorists, drug dealers, and illegal workers," the prime minister said. "If we do not make progress with the fence, the problem will just grow largers."

"This issue of infiltration has become a total industry," Netanyahu said. "Egypt is not opposed to the erection of a barrier and everything is being done within the confines of the peace treaty."

"The borders of the state cannot be porous and this is a threat on a national level," the prime minister said.

Yadai gave the premier a rundown of infiltration and smuggling activity that has taken place. The brigadier-general noted that in the last year Israeli authorities have confiscated 1.3 tons of hashish and 130 kilograms of heroine. Yadai added that some 5,000 illegal migrants were caught trying to sneak across the border.

Yadai said that some smugglers received upwards of $2,000 per individual whom they successfully manage to sneak into the country.

"Just in January, 500 individuals were caught just in our sector alone," Yadai said.