Israel may deploy remote armed buggy on border with Gaza

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The Independent Online

The Israeli army is considering a plan to patrol the Gaza border with remote-controlled buggies fitted with night-vision television cameras and machine guns that could spot and kill infiltrators before they crossed into Israel.

The Israeli army is considering a plan to patrol the Gaza border with remote-controlled buggies fitted with night-vision television cameras and machine guns that could spot and kill infiltrators before they crossed into Israel.

The technology was displayed by Israeli manufacturers at a Tel Aviv trade fair earlier this year. The unmanned land vehicles, about the size of a small car, are one of a range of hi-tech options for enhancing security if and when Israel evacuates the Gaza Strip.

They would compensate for the lack of an army presence to provide intelligence from inside Palestinian territory, but military sources stressed that no decisions had yet been taken.

The four-wheeled buggies are armour-plated and can move on any terrain. They would be added to a surveillance network, including aerial drones and 60ft observation towers. Military sources say that night-vision cameras on top of the towers are responsible for 70 per cent of interceptions.

Israel is also worried about the Egypt-Gaza border, where they say large quantities of arms are smuggled in to Palestinian fighters. The Defence Ministry this week published a tender for digging a moat, two and a half miles long and up to 80ft deep, alongside "Philadelphia Road", a security corridor between Sinai and Gaza. Defence officials said it had not yet been decided whether to flood the moat with seawater or leave it as a dry trench fitted with sensors. The tender was a first concrete step towards a project which was previously dismissed as impracticable.

Israeli officials hope that Egypt will co-operate in blocking the arms traffic - and in retraining and supervising the Palestinian security forces once the army and settlers pull out.

Ahmad Qureia, the Palestinian Prime Minister, was in Cairo yesterday discussing the possibilities with President Hosni Mubarak. General Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, is due in Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

A senior Israeli security official insisted that Egypt would never succeed in curbing the terror organisations if the Palestinian leadership did not impose its will on Hamas and dissident members of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

He argued that Palestinian society in Gaza remained much more disciplined than that in the West Bank, which is descending into anarchy. Mr Arafat, he said, paid the wages of 24,000 security men in Gaza, where Fatah outgunned Hamas. The Islamists, he said, knew they would have no chance in a civil war. The senior official, who is at the forefront of Israel's counter-terror campaign, dismissed the Palestinians' contention that Israel had destroyed their security infrastructure.

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