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US to help Egypt prevent smuggling on Gaza border
America transfers $23 million worth of aid to Egyptians, agrees to send engineering teams to assist in locating smuggling tunnels; budget also for building sturdier fence on Gaza-Egypt border

US helping Egypt build border fence on Gaza frontier: American officials have agreed to a $23 million aid package from which most will go towards purchasing technology to prevent the fence from being perforated and for locating underground smuggling conduits, according to information received in the Israeli political circuit.

 

From details that were made known to Ynet, the US intends to send teams from the US Army Corps of Engineers to the Egyptian side of the Gaza-Egypt border in the near future. Theses teams will assist Egyptian forces deployed along the frontier pinpoint the locations of smuggling tunnels west of the border in the Rafah area.

 

In recent days, Cairo is completing the construction of a stone wall on the border. At the same time, Egypt has positioned a specially-trained police force near the new wall in order to prevent a new perforation in the fence. The US teams will brief the Egyptian force, which numbers around 750 personnel.

 

In Jerusalem, Israel officials are welcoming the move. Nonetheless, Israel also believes that more hard work is needed in order to stop the flow of terrorists and weapons from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip.

 

Amos Gilad, head of the political-military bureau at the Defense Ministry, traveled to Washington this week to speak with US officials about an arrangement with the Egyptians over the border fence. Gilad also stopped in Cairo, where he met with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. The two discussed the issue of reopening the Rafah border crossing.

 

Israel has requested that the terminal be operated under international supervision by European Union monitors and that Palestinian Authority representatives from Fatah man the crossing on the Palestinian side. The issue is still up for contention since Hamas opposes any type of supervision on the terminal.

 

An Israeli official cautioned that there was still a long way to go. "More time is needed to take care of all the sensitive issues," he said. Among other things, Egypt is asking to add 750 soldiers and police to its side of the Egypt-Israel border. The issue is currently a bone of contention between the Foreign and Defense Ministries.

 

The Defense Ministry claims that the issues necessitate the reopening of the Camp David peace accords that were signed between Israel and Egypt in 1978. Conversely, the Foreign Ministry is ready to accept an Egyptian bolstering of forces if it deals with the entire Israel-Egypt border not just the area around the Gaza Strip.

 

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