Comment by Fahmi Huwaidi
The news hit me like a sledgehammer. I still do not want to believe that Egypt has decided to build an underground wall of steel along its border with the Gaza Strip, cutting off the tunnels described by a British journalist recently as a “lifeline” between Egypt and the Palestinians.
But it’s true. The report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which I thought – and wished – was a hoax to discredit Egypt has been confirmed by the Arab media. As-Shuruq’s 13th December edition contained an article headed, “Rafah’s Massive Underground Wall” and revealed shocking and devastating information on this development.
Egypt has started to build an underground wall of steel between Sinai and the Gaza Strip and, apparently, 5.4 km of this monstrosity has already been built, hidden deep underground away from prying eyes. It is being made of enormous steel plates 50 cm thick plunging 18 metres straight down into the desert. It was designed and manufactured specially for this purpose by the USA, and has been tested to ensure that it will be bomb proof.
The newspaper reports claim that the building is being carried out under the supervision of a team of American experts who have nearly completed two first-of-their-kind monitoring tunnels, which will allow the passage of remote-control mobile sensors capable of detecting weapons or explosives. The reports go on to say that in addition to the US army engineers, delegations from the US embassy and a number of other western embassies in Egypt visit the project on a regular basis to monitor its progress.
Egyptian officials have tried to justify this awful development by saying that the wall is intended to prevent Palestinians from crossing the border freely as they did earlier this year when the existing wall was breached. It is, they claim, “merely an Egyptian issue that is aimed at exerting Egypt’s right to preserve its national sovereignty.” This fools nobody, least of all the Palestinians, for whom it is glaringly obvious that they are the targets of yet another “separation wall” intended to imprison further the people of Gaza, grinding them into submission. The fact that this enforces the Israeli-imposed blockade and collective punishment of the whole population of Gaza and is being built using the latest US technology and support makes a mockery of US President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and acceptance speech. He spoke a lot about protecting international law and human rights, but this obviously does not apply when the victims are Palestinians dependent on the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt for food and basic essentials denied to them by the blockade.
Instead of confronting the basic essence of the problem – the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and the immoral and illegal siege – which necessitates the Palestinians having to resort to the tunnel lifelines, Egypt has capitulated to Israeli and American pressure and has chosen instead to aggravate the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.
What is being built will do nothing to improve Egypt’s security, because that has never been compromised by the Palestinians; the last time Egypt was invaded it was Israeli tanks and bombers heading for Cairo. The wall serves Israel’s interests and Israel’s alone. It is, truly, a wall of shame.
Translated by Monjia Abdallah Abidi
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.