Jan. 12, 2010
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel’s decision to erect a fence along its southern border with Egypt will, in the long run, curb the flow of prostitutes, drugs and illegal workers into the country.
In the more immediate term, it is another expression of Israel and Egypt closing in on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The border’s closure will prevent potential terror infiltrations into Israel via the “U Track” – dubbed such by the IDF’s Southern Command – a reference to the crossing of terrorists from Gaza to Sinai and then back into Israel.
In the past year, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and IDF succeeded in thwarting several dozen attempts by terrorists to infiltrate into Israel from the Sinai Peninsula. A fence along the border would make these infiltration attempts even more difficult, if not impossible. This is already the situation along Israel’s border with Gaza, where there is a fence.
The decision to build the fence, however, is not merely a move against infiltrations. It also is part of a larger Israeli-Egyptian strategy to turn the screws on Hamas and up the pressure on the terror group and its Gaza-based government.
This process started over a month ago at the height of negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. Then, government officials poured cold water on Hamas expectations that following a prisoner swap Israel would lift the blockade over the Gaza Strip.
Next was Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision several weeks ago to begin construction of an underground steel barrier along the Philadelphi Corridor, which is lined with hundreds of weapon-smuggling tunnels, to curb the flow of weaponry into Gaza.
Work on the barrier has continued despite Hamas condemnations and violent demonstrations and will reportedly reach a depth of close to 30 meters. While this will not completely stop the smuggling, it will make it much more difficult for Hamas to dig tunnels since they will have to be deeper.
Egypt has also announced that it will no longer allow aid convoys to enter Gaza from its territory.
Next was the testing of the Iron Dome last week, during which the missile defense system successfully intercepted several barrages of rockets, including Kassams, Katyushas and mortars.
The message to Hamas from all of this is clear: the siege on Gaza will continue and even escalate from Israel and Egypt. In addition, in about six months, rocket attacks won’t be as effective as they are today, since the Iron Dome system will be deployed along the border.
All of this together has put Hamas under a tremendous amount of pressure, and the IDF believes this to be the main reason behind the recent escalation in rocket attacks against the South.
While the rockets are not being shot by Hamas cells, Hamas is allowing other groups – such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees – to shoot into Israel and blow off steam.
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