Lessons of the Gaza Security Fence for the West Bank (JCPA-JERUSALEM CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS) JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF Vol. 4, No. 12 Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog 12/23/04)
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As part of the implementation of Oslo, Israel gave up 80 percent
of Gaza on May 18, 1994. When we talk about disengagement from Gaza,
this means withdrawal from the remaining 20 percent of the area.
During my time as Commander of Southern Command in the years
2000-2003, there were more than 400 attempts by Palestinians to
cross into Israel, all of which failed.
Together with rebuilding the fence, a key security element was
the creation of a one-kilometer security buffer zone. In addition,
we constructed high technology observation posts that enabled
soldiers to monitor about six kilometers - day and night, and we
provided the troops with new rules of engagement regarding anyone
approaching this area.
We have stopped about 30 percent of hostile actions near the
fence and 70 percent inside the territory through offensive actions.
In addition to the fence, we must continue to gather intelligence
throughout the territories in order to be able to intercept
As the fence prevented terrorists from leaving Gaza, they
decided to change tactics - developing rockets and initiating
focused attacks on Israeli settlements. When we finish the fence
around the West Bank, the Palestinian terrorism model may change
there as well and follow the same pattern.
A War that Targets Israel´s Cities
Since September 2000, Israel has lost 1,020 people in the war
against Palestinian terrorism. This is the first war where the price
in civilian life is so high, and where most of those killed have
been in our cities, in the heartland of Israel. The decision to
build a security fence in the West Bank is, first of all, a security
statement, a statement that the Israeli government will do all that
is necessary in order to protect human life in Israel.
As a Gaza Strip division commander between 1994 and 1996, I was
involved in building the fence separating Gaza from Israel. I was
also present at the start of the implementation of the Oslo peace
accords, and was the first Israeli commander to welcome Arafat on
July 1, 1994, when he came to Gaza from Egypt.
As part of the implementation of Oslo, Israel gave up 80 percent of
the Gaza Strip. Since May 18, 1994, a little before Arafat´s
arrival, Israeli troops have been deployed in only 20 percent of the
Gaza Strip. So when we talk about disengagement from Gaza, this does
not mean from the whole of the Gaza Strip, but only from the
remaining 20 percent of the area.
Palestinians Dismantle the Fence
Israel built a 60-kilometer fence around the Gaza Strip shortly
after the implementation of Oslo, and we lost most of it at the
beginning of the latest intifada. The intifada began on September
28, 2000. By December, during my first tour of Gaza as Commander of
Southern Command, I found that Palestinians had dismantled most of
the fence. At the same time, the IDF was receiving between 10 and 30
intelligence alerts a day about terrorists seeking to cross into
Israel in order to attack and murder Israelis, at first by planting
detonation charges and later using suicide bombers.
During my time as Commander of Southern Command in the years 2000-
2003, there were more than 400 attempts by Palestinians to cross the
boundaries of the Gaza Strip, all of which failed. There are a
number of key reasons for this:
Our first move was to rebuild the fence, which took six months
from December 2000 to June 2001.
Together with the fence, a key security element was the creation
of a one-kilometer security buffer zone. Sometimes there were
orchards that allowed the terrorists to get within 50 meters of the
fence without being spotted. The only way to face our intelligence
alerts effectively was to remove the trees to allow clearer
In addition, we constructed high technology observation posts
that enabled soldiers to monitor about six kilometers - day and
night, and we provided the troops with new rules of engagement
regarding anyone approaching this area.
The experience gained by the IDF´s Southern Command in the Gaza
Strip is the basis for our efforts to implement the new fence in the
West Bank. Geographically, the West Bank is different from the Gaza
Strip, but from a professional perspective it presents the same
problem, even though the West Bank is hilly and is ten times larger
We have stopped about 30 percent of hostile actions near the fence
and 70 percent inside the territory through offensive actions. We
await the formation of a strong Palestinian Authority that is
willing to fight terrorism and dismantle the terrorist organizations
inside the territories.
Rafiah on the Egyptian border is distinguished by tunneling. When I
was Commander of Southern Command, the IDF destroyed more than 100
tunnels along the 4 kilometers of Rafiah. The smuggling phenomenon
started with the implementation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace
accord. One of the conditions set by President Sadat was cutting the
town of Rafiah into two so that part of it would stay Egyptian and
part would be under Israeli control. Since the border corridor there
is extremely narrow, the reaction time for Israeli troops is very
short. We use advanced technology to find and destroy the tunnels,
but the problem still continues.
The establishment of a fence and the new technology around the Gaza
Strip has also allowed us to monitor and photograph incidents,
allowing the IDF to do what is known as an After-Action Review, to
enable us to ask ourselves tough questions about the behavior of the
soldiers and the commanders in the field.
Changing Terrorist Tactics
As the fence prevented terrorists from leaving Gaza, they decided to
change tactics - developing rockets and the use of huge explosive
charges inside the Gaza Strip. They also initiated focused attacks
on Israeli settlements. When we finish building the fence around the
West Bank, the Palestinian terrorism model may change there as well
and follow the same pattern.
What we have learned from our experience in the Gaza Strip is that
it is necessary to continue building the fence around the West Bank.
In the first eleven months of 2004, there has been a sharp decline
in terrorist successes, but not because they are not trying. Every
month there are between five and thirty attempts to launch suicide
bombers at the heart of Israel.
It is important that we also create a security buffer zone. If we
allow the Palestinians to cultivate land up to the fence without
such a buffer zone, we allow the terrorists a place from which they
can launch future attacks. Finally, in addition to constructing the
fence, we must continue to gather intelligence throughout the
territories in order to be better able to intercept Palestinian
terrorists attempting to kill Israelis.
* * *
Maj. Gen. (res.) Doron Almog is the former Commander of the IDF´s
Southern Command (2000-2003). Throughout his military career and
during the course of four wars, Gen. Almog has gained extensive
experience in combat and special clandestine operations in the
ongoing war against terrorism. He participated in the Tripoli raid
that targeted key terrorist leaders in February 1973, and in the
Entebbe rescue operation in 1976. On October 4, 2003, Gen. Almog
lost five members of his family in a Palestinian suicide bombing at
the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based
on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in
Jerusalem on November 29, 2004.
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