Da Jerusalem Post del 29/08/2005
Originale su http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFu...

Full speed ahead for southern fence

di Arieh O'Sullivan

Workers on the security fence that could have stopped a suicide bomber from reaching Beersheba on Sunday are now hastening its completion and have started erecting five kilometers a week.

The first 32-kilometer section stretching from Moshav Nehusha south of Beit Shemesh to Shomriya is expected to be completed by mid-October, six weeks ahead of schedule, a senior IDF officer said Sunday.

But the remaining – and crucial – 26-kilometer stretch that would block the lower Hebron Hills of the West Bank, where some 420,000 Palestinians live, from the northern Negev won't be finished until next summer, if not later.

"We know that the border is wide open. The fact that a suicide bomber could penetrate was not unexpected," said a senior officer during a patrol along the route of the security fence.

He said the IDF had recently deployed a battalion to patrol the area, adding that without a fence in place it remained porous to infiltrations.

In the meantime, the IDF has been laying ambushes and carrying out low-profile patrols to halt infiltrators and thieves. But senior commanders say they have had very little contact with either, mainly due to the local Arabs' superior knowledge of the terrain.

"Their criminal cells are like commandos, they have great intelligence about our modus operandi and cleverly try to outwit us. Also, the few clashes we've had with them have all been very violent," said a senior officer.

Following the double suicide bombing in Beersheba last August, the government vowed to close the gap and erect a security fence. But so far it has only approved some 60 km. of the route. Most of the fence is along the 1949 Armistice Line, so there were very few demonstrations by Palestinians over land confiscation. However, sections near Beit Awa and Ramadin were disputed and held up with court appeals.

On Sunday, dozens of teams of workers fanned out north and south from Moshav Shekef to erect an electronic security fence. This barrier will also consist of electronic surveillance cameras and sensors like the ones deployed in northern Samaria.

The Defense Ministry has been operating nine contractors to work simultaneously on the security fence and they have carved out a stark white path through the gray rock.

The first section, dubbed D-1, is almost complete with a paved, relatively flat road flanked by a patrol road and coils of razor wire on one side and meter-high iron rails on the other as an obstacle to block stolen cars.

Beduin recently stole 400 meters of the iron rails to sell as scrap metal, a senior officer said.

Four months ago most of the legal battles ended and work began on the second section, dubbed D-2. That section is to wrap up the West Bank, encompassing the village of Eshkolot near Kibbutz Lahav and sweep eastward near Sansana straight for the commanding Metzadot Yehuda on the edge of the Yatir Forest.

The third section, dubbed D-3, has still not been determined, with the debate over whether to include the settlements of the southern Hebron Hills inside or out as it runs toward the Dead Sea.

IDF officers insist the situation today is radically improved since last summer when there was nothing to halt terrorists.

"When you add up the barrier with the military force we are deploying along with the intelligence, when this is completed I don't believe there will be any infiltrations, just like Gaza," said a senior commander.

Residents and police say there is an unprecedented wave of theft, with the Palestinians "filling up their warehouses before the fence is completed."

The fence's northern section stops at Nehusha, leaving the area between the Ela Valley and Gush Etzion open and exposed. It acts like a funnel for crime and possibly terrorist infiltrations.

Earlier this year, an Islamic Jihad terrorist cell from Idna murdered three Israelis there within three weeks. The cell members were eventually captured.

There is still no approved route for the security fence around Gush Etzion, which is expected to take years to complete.

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