Israel plans Egypt border “fence”

Emulating US strategies on the Mexican border, Israel has approved the construction of a reinforced fence along its border with Egypt to stop Palestinian militants reaching Israel via the Sinai desert. The measure was agreed by a security cabinet meeting in response to the temporary breach of the Gaza-Egypt border, when thousands of Palestinians left the Strip unchecked. Plans for a fence were considered years ago but dropped as too expensive.

Israeli officials were quoted saying that because of the mountainous terrain, the Egypt border fence would not extend along the entire frontier, but sensors would protect the gaps. Egyptian forces finally resealed the Gaza border Feb. 3, nearly two weeks after its Israeli-built barriers had been blown apart by militants.

Israel was struck by its first suicide bombing for more than a year, killing a woman and two bombers at Dimona Feb. 4. Initial speculation that the attackers were Gazans who arrived via the largely unguarded 230-kilometer Egyptian border was quashed Feb. 5 when Hamas announced that the attackers had come from the West Bank. It is the first Hamas suicide attack in Israel since 2004.

Israel launched further air strikes against Gaza on Feb. 6, targeting militants firing rockets at its territory. One of the unguided rockets apparenly fired by Hamas militants wounded two children at Kibbutz Beeri. On Feb. 5, at least seven were killed in an Israeli air attack on a Hamas-run police station in Gaza. (BBC, Feb. 6)

AlJazeera initially claimed the Dimon attacks were carried out by the Fatah-aligned al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). (AlJazeera, Feb. 4) But according to the Jeruslam Post, a statement was issued claiming responsibility by Hamas’ armed wing, Izzadin Kassam. The statement said that although the attackers came from Hebron in the West Bank, they were in response to the “barbaric and inhumane” conditions in Gaza. The Fatah leadership in the West Bank scathingly denounced the attacks. “The instructions came from Damascus and the funding from Teheran,” an unnamed senior Palestinian Authority official told the Jerusalem Post. “They are all determined to undermine the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas and sabotage the peace process.” (JP, Feb. 6)

See our last post on Israel/Palestine and the Gaza crisis.