Israel Fencing in Security at Egyptian Border

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EILAT, Israel -- Israel hopes a fence along its border with Egypt will prevent terrorists and thousands of illegal immigrants from crossing the desert border.

Israel's southernmost resort city of Eilat borders Jordan and Egypt at the Red Sea, with Saudi Arabia nearby.

Last August, not far from here, terrorists killed eight Israelis after infiltrating the porous Israeli-Egyptian border. At that time, the security fence barely existed.

"I think that the major lesson learned is that this is a hot border now," Lt. Col. Yoav, who asked that his last name be withheld, told CBN News. "Terror is on this border like any other border we have in Israel."

The border runs 144 miles from Eilat north to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. For decades, it remained virtually open and mostly quiet.

Several years ago, Israel planned a massive fence to protect the border. Now the need is more urgent.

"We are trying to stop infiltrations this way by this new fence and other elements as well," Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, head of the Foreign Press Branch of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, told CBN News.

Thousands have crossed the Israeli-Egyptian border since 2005, most of them Sudanese refugees and African job seekers.

"You never know who is a person who is trying to infiltrate, whether he's a terrorist or just a criminal," Col. Leibovich said.

Since the so-called Arab spring, Israel's peace treaty with Egypt is on shaky ground, and terrorists can freely cross from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into the Egyptian Sinai Desert.

"These are the terrorist organizations that now move freely along in the Sinai Peninsula with one motivation, to infiltrate this border, to hit and attack civilian and also military targets on this border," Col. Yoav said.

During one week in February alone, the Israeli army stopped three infiltration attempts, two smuggling large bombs and the third an armed gunmen.

"We do know there are terror organizations working in the area trying to plan the next terror attack," Col Liebovich said.

About 60 miles of the fence is complete, with plans to complete the rest by the end of the year. For Israel, full protection along this frontier can't happen soon enough, given changes in Egypt and constant terror threats.

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Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

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