Israel to build sea barrier near Gaza coast

Date: 06-17-05

By Matt Spetalnick

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel plans to build a barrier that will extend out to sea from its border with Gaza to deter Palestinian infiltrators once it withdraws from the coastal strip in August, military officials said on Friday.

Details were reported in the Jerusalem Post, which said the barrier, part concrete and part floating fence, would stretch 950 meters (yards) into the Mediterranean from Israel's boundary with the northern Gaza Strip.

The aim is to stop Gaza militants from launching attacks into Israel by sea after the Israeli army implements a plan to remove all 21 Jewish settlements from the occupied territory, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Palestinian Authority reacted angrily to the barrier plan. "I hope the Israeli government will stop the mentality of barriers," chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters.

"There is a barrier on the ground, now a barrier on the water and tomorrow we will end up with barrier in the sky. It will not bring peace and security," he added.

Israel has surrounded Gaza, home to 1.3 million Palestinians, with an electronic fence that it says keeps out attackers but which Palestinians condemn for restricting their movements.

Israel is also erecting a West Bank land barrier that will eventually extend 600 km (370 miles), cutting into occupied territory in some places. Israel says it stops suicide bombers. Palestinians call it a land grab. The World Court has ruled the barrier illegal.

The Jerusalem Post said the first 150 meters (yards) of the sea barrier would consist of concrete pilings burrowed into the seabed while the remaining 800 meters (yards) would be a submerged 1.8 meter (six-foot) deep "floating fence."

No further details were given.

A military official said the barrier was being built in part to compensate for Israel's future loss of surveillance posts and would involve a system of electronic sensors and radar.

Settlements housing about 8,500 people and all military bases there are slated for evacuation starting in mid-August.

"It is (a system) to ... prevent infiltrations of terrorists via the sea," a security source said. Israeli forces have foiled attempted seaborne attacks on the Israeli coast and Gaza settlements during a 4-1/2-year-old Palestinian uprising.

Israel has demarcated its tense northern border with Lebanon with a buoys that stretch 4.2 km (2.6 miles) out to sea.

(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah)



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