IDF at Sinai border
IDF at Sinai borderIsrael news photo: Flash 90

One of the less heralded, but more successful, projects that have been undertaken recently in Israel is the security fence on the country's southern border. In October, only 54 illegal African refugees entered Israel – one of the lowest numbers in many years, and a far cry from the 1,000 to 2,000 and more that entered the country each month over the past few years.

Last October, for example, 2,100 illegals were estimated to have entered Israel. Only a few were caught as they crossed the then-wide open border. Since then, the security fence on the border with Sinai has rapidly been built, and currently some 80% of the border is protected. In areas where construction is going on, the IDF has sharply increased patrols. At this point, the vast majority of illegals are caught before they enter Israel, and are immediately taken into custody for deportation to their homelands. Word that Israel's gates are closing tight has apparently seeped back to Sudan, Eritrea, and other African countries, and now there are far fewer attempts to cross the border.

In addition to the increased protection, the Interior Ministry, led by Eli Yishai, has conducted a strong campaign to deport illegals, or at least persuade them to go home voluntarily. Using a mixture of carrots and sticks, with payments to illegals who leave for good and months-long detention at camps in the Negev, the illegal alien population has been slowly but surely dwindling. Yishai has been quoted as saying that if the current pace of enforcement is kept up, Israel could be free of illegal African aliens within just a few years. However, that could take some time – as the Population Registry estimates that there are still over 10,000 illegal Africans in the country.

Besides holding back the tide of illegals, the security fence has helped limit smuggling of drugs and other illegal items by Bedouin. In August, a terror cell killed 16 Egyptian soldiers as they attempted to blow up a portion of the security fence and enter Israel. IDF forces destroyed a jeep that managed to get through, on its way to carry out a terror attack at a border area community.