11 Jan 2010

Israel to build barrier along Egyptian border

8:20 pm on 11 January 2010

Israel has approved plans for the construction of a barrier along its border with Egypt to cut down on illegal immigrants and suspected militants crossing into Israeli territory.

The barrier will be built along two parts of the border - near the Red Sea city of Eilat and on the edge of the Gaza Strip where Israel and Egypt meet, the BBC reports.

Approving the construction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he could not allow Israel to be inundated by tens of thousands of illegal aliens.

Mr Netanyahu says the decision was taken to secure the state's Jewish and democratic character.

In recent years, migrants have increasingly tried to cross Israel's long and poorly secured southern border - some for employment, others seeking refuge from war.

Israel says militants have also tried to smuggle explosives across for possible attacks inside its territory.

When completed, the barrier's vast detection equipment is likely to make that much more difficult.

At least 17 migrants, mostly African, have been killed since May by Egyptian police, who say they are trying to stop people trafficking.

Eritrea is the most common country of origin for people trying to cross illegally from Egypt to Israel, followed by Ethiopia and Sudan.