Israel-Egypt border fence
Israel-Egypt border. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
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During a tour of the Israel-Egypt border on Sunday, MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) said that IDF forces should shoot at anyone that crosses into Israeli territory.

“Anyone that penetrates Israel’s border should be shot, a Swedish tourist, Sudanese from Eritrea, Eritreans from Sudan, Gazans from Sinai. Whoever touches Israel’s border – shot,” said Eldad.

Eldad, along with other members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee toured the Israel-Egypt border on Sunday, and received a briefing from Southern Front commander Maj. Gen. Tal Russo on Israel Defense Forces activities in the sector.

Committee chairperson, Roni Bar-On (Kadima) pointed out that “the responsibility for policy concerning infiltrators lies with the state, not with the IDF. All along, the guidelines handed down to the IDF by the state have been unclear.” Bar-On commented on the border fence being built, calling the pace of the construction “impressive.” According to goals set by the Defense Ministry, completion of the 240 kilometer fence is expected by the end of 2012, if not sooner.

“The cost of the fence is around 2 billion Shekels, today, we need patience until construction is completed. The amount of infiltrators will drop significantly. It is clear that at this point, the problems in Sinai are not at the top of Egypt’s list of priorities, but only the third priority,” added Bar-On.

MK Eldad, who stated that anyone approaching the fence should be shot, attempted to mitigate his statements. “It isn’t feasible to shoot anyone just climbing the fence – because bleeding hearts groups will immediately begin to shriek and turn to the courts. I don’t see the IDF handing down orders to shoot at people climbing the fence empty handed. The best alternative is prolonged imprisonment. Anyone attempting to cross the fence will be given a long jail sentence,” said Eldad.

The IDF’s 80th division, responsible for security in the sector, reported a decrease in the amount of African migrants reaching areas where the fence has been completed. Also, division commanders explained that in other areas, where there is no fence preventing the passage of smuggler caravans from the Sinai Peninsula, the number of African migrants crossing the border has increased.

Security officials have expressed fears over the “T trail,” as it is known among IDF soldiers, a passageway that starts in Sinai (or the Gaza Strip), continues into Jordan, and from Jordan into Israel. 

According to MK Ofir Akunis (Likud), government plans are already in place to construct a fence between Eilat and the Dead Sea, along the Jordanian border, though a budget has yet to be allocated for the project.

Population and Immigration Authority began implementation of the amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law of 1954. The law was expanded to address migrant workers or asylum seekers who enter Israel without posing a threat to Israel's security.

So far, all migrants who have been caught by the Israel Defense Forces on the Israel-Egypt border have been transferred to the Saharonim detention facility which holds 2,000 spaces.

The facility is currently being expanded to 5,400. The Interior Ministry has reported that they are implementing the amendment and will fill up Saharonim, where they will be held until the ministry "finds other solutions."

According to the Interior Ministry, the Saharonim detention center will run out of space within a month.

Construction of a new detention facility began a month ago, and is currently, in “advanced earthwork” stages, according to the Defense Ministry. According to estimations, the facility should open at the end of the year, with a capacity for 3,000 detainees. The long term goal is for the facility to be able to hold roughly 11,000 migrants.

According to the ministry, up to 60,000 African migrant currently live in Israel, with 2,031 entering in the month of May alone.