Israeli sea barrier planned to prevent attacks from Gaza

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Israel is planning a barrier stretching almost a kilometre into the Mediterranean to prevent seaborne Palestinian militants infiltrating its coastline after it pulls out of Gaza.

Israel is planning a barrier stretching almost a kilometre into the Mediterranean to prevent seaborne Palestinian militants infiltrating its coastline after it pulls out of Gaza.

The barrier, which will be under water and above, and fitted with electronic sensors, will stretch out to sea in a line from Gaza's northern border with Israel.

The plan, which triggered immediate protests from Palestinian leaders, is ostensibly aimed at making up for the reduction is surveillance posts for the Israeli military after it dismantles its installations guarding the Strip's 21 settlements.

Military sources broadly confirmed a report in the Jerusalem Post which said that the barrier would stretch 950m into the sea. The newspaper said that the first 150m would consist of concrete pilings dug into the seabed, and the remaining 800m would be a submerged 1.8m (6ft) deep "floating fence".

Officials suggested that the barrier would use a combination of sensors and underwater radar to alert the military to possible infiltration as well as physically helping to prevent it. Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza are already restricted by Israeli naval patrols on how far out to sea they can go.

Although Israel has provoked the condemnation of the Palestinians and the International Court of Justice for the 600km land security barrier because it cuts deep into the West Bank, this is the first time it has constructed a sea barrier. It has laid a line of buoys more than four kilometres out to sea to mark the border between Israel and Lebanon, from where the militant group Hezbollah has launched attacks.

Security and military officials insist that the land barrier, which has cut off thousands of Palestinians from their land, neighbours and medical and other facilities, has had a marked success in reducing attacks.

An electronic security fence already surrounds Gaza, where 1.3 million Palestinians live in one of the world's most densely populated territories. Israel says it keeps out attackers, but Palestinians condemn it for restricting their movements.

A security source said: "To provide protection for the Israeli home front and to prevent infiltration of terrorists via the sea, the navy is establishing a security system which will help stop such infiltrations and alert the security forces to them. The area designated for this system is near the coast of the northern Gaza Strip."

The plans for the sea barrier came to light as the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, prepared to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders in an attempt to improve the level of co-ordination between the two sides over Gaza disengagement. Compulsory evacuation begins in mid-August of those of the 8,000 settlers who have not left voluntarily by then.

The Palestinians complain that Israel has given them insufficient information to plan for the post-evacuation period and refused to allow the access to markets needed to help the Strip's devastated economy. The Israelis say these goals can be achieved only when the Palestinian leadership does more to curb militants and advance security.

Comments