Since 1948, the Egyptian-Israeli border has always been open. For the most part, the border runs through hilly, barren desert with little or no vegetation and sparse population. Due to its remoteness, it has been a favorite area for terrorists, drug smugglers and human traffickers.
Israel decided to build a security fence along the border due to terrorist attacks and to halt the infiltration of tens of thousands of African migrants. The fence, approximately 220 km long, is expected to be completed later in 2012.
Following are some of the key issues related to the Israel-Egypt border:
- Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterates that peace is in the “joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability.”
- The weakening of the central government has allowed an influx of terrorists, including Al Qaeda, to the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood has a hard-line Islamist platform and Brotherhood leaders have previously made threatening statements against Israel.
- The terrain along the border area is a significant factor in making attacks, smuggling and infiltrations possible. Sandy expanses, rocky ravines, and mountains make tracking and patrolling the border an arduous task. There are minimal military and law-enforcement personnel on both sides of the border mandated by the Camp David peace accords.
- Egypt responded to the increased threats, sending more troops and heavier weapons into the northern Sinai after an Egyptian-Israeli agreement to temporarily amend the peace treaty, which calls for a demilitarized Sinai. Reinforcements, however, have met with violent clashes with local armed Bedouin. Egyptian troops face rocket-propelled grenade attacks and are effectively barred from local strongholds so impenetrable that they are known as “the Tora Bora of the Sinai”.
- A higher, stronger border fence equipped with electronic surveillance systems is being installed, with plans to complete the project by the end of 2012.
- Responsibility for the June, 2012 terrorist attack was claimed by “Magles Shoura al-Mujhaddin.” It is a Salafi faction in Gaza, which planned another Israel-Egypt border attack. Global Jihad is the name given to the network of terrorist groups that share Al-Qaeda’s ideology. It was established in 1998 under the name “World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.” Al-Qaeda is the dominant factor in the Global Jihad’s umbrella organization.
- In the first half of 2012 there were many incidents between armed Jihadist groups who identify with Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian army.
- Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza are both offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood. Weapons including thousands of rockets, mortar rounds and bomb-making materials have been smuggled into Gaza under the Egypt-Gaza border. Israel hopes Egyptian security authorities will crack down on the illegal weapons smuggled in as well control terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.
- Radical Islamic groups with close ties to Iran and other terror groups have repeatedly bombed the Egypt-Israel gas pipeline, leading Egypt to cancel its supply contract in April 2012. Terrorists not associated with Hamas or Islamic Jihad who operate in the Sinai have fired several rockets at the southern Israel city of Eilat and other areas and continue to threaten Israel. Terrorism in the Sinai remains a threat to both Israelis vacationing there and the many foreigners who visit the Sinai every year. Both Israel (Aug. 2, 2012) and the U.S. State Department (Aug. 3, 2012) issued travel warnings advising visitors to leave the area due to credible threats. An attack followed on Aug. 5, 2012.