TEL AVIV ø Israel has launched a project to construct a huge trench
along the border of Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli Defense Ministry has announced a tender for the construction
of a four kilometer trench along the Egyptian-Gaza border in an effort to
stop the smuggling of weapons and explosives to the Palestinian Authority
and insurgency groups. The trench was specified as having a depth of up to
Officials said the trench would contain some water. They said the trench
could be more than 100
meters wide and meant to be completed within six months.
"A trench that would be permanently wet would make it difficult to dig
in that location," Deputy Defense Minister Zev Boim said.
The moat was meant to prevent the construction of tunnels by
Palestinians that connect the southern Gaza town of Rafah with the Sinai
Peninsula. These tunnels have been used for the smuggling of weapons,
insurgents and illegal drugs. So far, Israel has found and destroyed 90
tunnels, 15 of them in 2004.
The tender by the ministry's construction division would include the
digging of the canal, cement work and other construction. The project was
meant to last one year, with the option for another year.
Boim said the project would cost tens of millions of dollars and would
involve the testing of new technology. Boim said contractors would be asked
to ensure that the digging does not strike the underground water table.
Officials said the canal project was meant to replace an Israeli
military recommendation to widen the border area to up to five kilometers.
They said the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon concluded that this
would result in the destruction of thousands of homes in Rafah and incur
The ministry announcement called for a tour by interested contractors
before they submit bids. Officials said they could not estimate the value of
The halt in Palestinian weapons smuggling has been deemed a priority for
Israel's Southern Command. Col. Pinchas Suarez, commander of the southern
Gaza brigade, said Palestinian insurgents have ordered a large quantity of
Katyusha rockets and anti-aircraft missiles and that the shipment was
waiting in the Sinai Peninsula for smuggling through the tunnels and into
the Gaza Strip.