Israel to build fence along border with Egypt

( dpa ) - Israel decided Wednesday to begin building a fence along its more than 200-kilometre long border with Egypt, to prevent infiltrations by militants, Israel Army Radio reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the decision in consultations in Jerusalem with Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and army chiefs.

Israel made the decision after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians crossed unhindered through the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt for nearly 12 days, until Egyptian border police reclosed the border Sunday by putting in place metal obstacles near breaches made by Hamas militants.

It will be expediting an older blue-print, drafted at the time of Israel's 2005 unilateral pullout from the Gaza Strip, but never implemented.

Under the plan, Israel will erect a physical barrier in some areas, Gaza, while stepping up security and patrols elsewhere along the long border.

Two Palestinian suicide bombers who killed one Israeli in a shopping mall in the southern town of Dimona were initially believed to have infiltrated Israel via Egypt, after leaving Gaza through its breached southern border.

The radical Islamic Hamas movement however claimed responsibility for the attack Tuesday and said the bombers came from the West Bank city of Hebron.

The rough desert land between Israel and Egypt is also often exploited by smugglers of drugs, prostitutes and illegal immigrants, among them refugees from Darfur and other troubled African regions.

Construction is to begin at two sections, near Eilat and near the community of Nitzana, south-east of Gaza.

Ministries may initially have to supply some one billion shekels (some 300 million dollars) from their respective budgets, but the project could cost up to 1.37 billion dollars, Israeli media reported, quoting government officials.

Israel, meanwhile, is also considering giving Egypt the green light to deploy more troops along its border with Gaza.

Livni proposed allowing the deployment of another 750 soldiers and border policemen in the area of the Rafah border town. Barak however is still said to be against the foreign ministry proposal, but has not ruled it out.

Israel has thus far opposed the stationing of larger numbers of Egyptian troops along the border, because this could require reopening its 1979 peace treaty with Cairo.

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