African Migrants Trapped Between Fences on Israel-Egypt Border

Some 20 migrants, among them a pregnant woman, are now unable to return to Egypt or enter Israel; IDF soldiers ordered to give them 'as little water as possible.'

A group of 20 Eritrean migrants have been trapped for five days between fences on the Israel-Egyptian border.

Last Thursday, the migrants reached the border area, north of Kadesh-Barnea, hoping to enter Israel. When they tried to cross into Israel, however, they were caught by obstacles that line the border area, within Israeli territory.

An IDF force has been deployed to watch over the group, which reportedly includes a 14-year-old youth and two women. One of the women had been pregnant, but migrants told Israel Defense Forces soldiers that she suffered a miscarriage in recent days.

On Tuesday night, the migrants remained between two fences, and were unable to pass into Israel. An Egyptian military post is not far from the site, but IDF soldiers say the migrants are afraid they will be harmed if they return to Egyptian soil.

The group has not had food since Thursday. IDF soldiers say they have been ordered to give them water, "but in limited measure." One soldier said he is afraid the migrants might dehydrate; he said he and his fellow soldiers are upset that they have not received clear orders from their superiors as to how to relate to this stranded, vulnerable group of Africans.

The soldiers do not know what will happen to the migrants, whose circumstances are getting worse due to a lack of food and water, as well as the extreme heat. The IDF has supplied them with some material to protect them against the sun.

The IDF soldiers on the scene are apparently there to watch over the group and stop its members from encroaching into Israel (even though an electronic fence has been installed in this area for the same purpose: to forestall infiltration ). At night, the soldiers light the Africans' area using jeep headlights and other equipment.

Following a report in Haaretz earlier today about the group's circumstances, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued a statement branding the situation a "disgrace." ACRI attorney Oded Feller stated that "Israel has the right to build a fence, but no fence can relieve Israel of its obligation. If these people are in danger then they must be allowed to enter" into Israel.

A similar episode occurred three weeks ago: A group of migrants from Africa tried to enter Israel, and was stranded for roughly four days in a water tunnel near the border. The migrants were allowed to enter Israel for humanitarian reasons, and were brought to a site operated by the Population, Immigration and Border Authority.

An IDF spokesman said, "A fence was recently installed in this area with the aim of preventing unauthorized entry into the territory of the State of Israel. In recent days a group of foreigners has been stopped on the western side of the fence, an area which looks out toward Egyptian territory; the group's progress was stopped by this fence. For humanitarian reasons, IDF forces supply water through the fence to these foreigners."

African migrants looking through the fence at the Egyptian-Israeli border on August 4, 2012.