"It has been a huge failure," the official said in a briefing on July
The security sources said the barrier, expected to span 10
kilometers, would not be completed before 2011.
"This has been a difficult project and we are not getting any
cooperation from the other side [in the Gaza Strip]," a security source
The sources said the barrier, in which six kilometers have already been
constructed, had been expected to be completed by August 2010. But
construction slowed down in the spring of this year amid technical problems
as well as the need to bolster security forces along the Sinai-Gaza border.
The construction of the steel barrier, meant to reach up to 30 meters
below the surface, began in 2009 with Western financial and technical
assistance. The barrier was designed to contain thousands of sensors that
would detect tunnel digging or activity along the Gaza border.
But Palestinian sources said tunnel operators have found a way to
overcome the Egyptian barrier. They said Gaza laborers have been using
equipment, including blowtorches, to cut through the five centimeter thick
steel. Each hole was said to take less than a day.
The security sources, however, said the barrier has prevented or
hampered about 70 percent of the estimated 1,500 tunnels that span Gaza and
Sinai. They said the U.S.-origin sensors have allowed Egyptian security
forces to block the smuggling of a range of products, including cement and
vehicles, to the Gaza Strip.
On July 28, Egypt was reported to have discovered 10
tunnels, including those with multiple entrances. The sources said 16
tunnels were discovered in late July alone.
"No one denies that there still is smuggling," the security source said.
"But it is much less than it was a year ago."