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      IDF Warns: Illegal Entrants Flooding Southern Israel

      Illegal entrants are flooding southern Israel, IDF officials tell visiting MKs. Seven percent of Eilat residents – illegal.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 10/15/2009, 8:41 PM / Last Update: 10/15/2009, 8:44 PM

      Flash 90

      Illegal entrants are flooding southern Israel, Members of Knesset heard Thursday as they toured the Israel-Egypt border accompanied by senior IDF officials. Brigadier-General Harel Knafo warned the MKs that seven percent of those living in Eilat are illegal entrants, most of whom infiltrated Israel from Egypt.

      The MKs – Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz of Ichud Leumi (National Union), Shai Hermesh of Kadima, Yitzchak Vaknin of Shas, Moshe Matalon of Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), and Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz – are members of the Knesset committee tasked with finding solutions to the problem of Israel's growing population of illegal foreign workers.

      Knafo told the committee members that the growing number of illegal entrants is having a serious deleterious effect on the lives of Israelis in the south. “In entire neighborhoods of southern cities, children are afraid to walk in the streets due to the presence of illegal entrants, because of the rise in crime they bring about,” he said.

      The problem is particularly severe in the cities of Eilat and Arad, Knafo said.

      An estimated one million people are hoping to infiltrate Israel via the Sinai Peninsula, IDF officials warned. Knafo told the MKs that in his professional opinion, only the “hourglass” (Shaon Chol) plan to build an electronic fence along the Israel-Egypt border can prevent Israel from being flooded with hundreds of thousands of illegal infiltrators, some of whom may be hostile.

      Ketzaleh: Infiltration a Strategic Threat
      Committee head Katz said following the tour that the information he received from Knafo reinforced his belief that Israel must build a border fence in the south. “This is a strategic issue of the utmost importance,” he warned. “In a short time, we could have another people living in this country.”

      Those entering Israel come with the hope of gaining refugee status and being allowed to remain, Katz said. However, he said, most are not from war-torn regions such as Darfur, but rather come as economic migrants. Their presence in Israel could deal “a serious blow” to the country's fragile social and demographic balance, he said.