Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Outdoing the Kafkaesque: Egypt’s new US-designed underground Gaza wall (updated)

UPDATE 1:  Paul Woodward applies a healthy dose of skepticism to these early reports. I’ve added his observations with his kind permission (see below).

UPDATE 2: Sherine Tadros reports from Rafah for Al Jazeera on the barrier — video clip added below (h/t AlethoNews)

UPDATE 3 (15 Dec): Maan News reports that the US army is installing a Gaza monitoring system along the border (also mentioned at the 19 minute mark by Jimmy Johnson on the video at this post re Egyptian engineers being trained in tunnel detection by the US on the border with Mexico) as phase one before a more uncertain phase two underground wall.

Egypt's underground Gaza barrier (Source: BBC)

Just when you thought things could not become more Kafkaesque comes apparent confirmation that the US-backed Egyptian government is building an underground steel barrier designed to cut off one of the few lifelines sustaining the Gaza Ghetto, the tunnel economy. The BBC reports that the huge underground wall will be 10-11km (6-7 miles) long, will extend 18 metres below the surface and will take 18 months to complete. The project has been shrouded in secrecy with no official confirmation from the Egyptian government, but it is understood that the design is commissioned by US army engineers, at the behest of Israel, Ann Wright surmises.

The ‘impenetrable’ barrier is made of super-strength steel manufactured in the US, according to the BBC. It will likely not succeed in halting all smuggling but will force Palestinians to dig deeper.

Conditions are worsening in this nightmare siege. The Israeli regime has prevented EU officials from entering the besieged strip, Gaza’s water is contaminated and creating a public health disaster and the israeli blockade that prevents vital reconstruction continues unabated.

If this report is accurate, it would be a new low in the levels of inhumanity, absurdity and wretchedness to which the Israeli regime, with active Egyptian and US ZOG complicity, are subjecting the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza.  Only a just political resolution will put an end to the tunnels.

Retired US Army Reserve Colonel and former diplomat Ann Wright rightly castigates this development and calls it a laughing stock:

Just as the steel walls of the US Army Corps of Engineers at the base of the levees of New Orleans were unable to contain Hurricane Katrina, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ underground steel walls that will attempt to build an underground cage of Gaza will not be able to contain the survival spirit of the people of Gaza.

America’s super technology will again be laughed at by the world, as young men dedicated to the survival of their people, will again outwit technology by digging deeper, and most likely penetrating the “impenetrable” in some novel, simple, low-tech way.

Source: Capture date: 12/12/2009
Paul Woodward of the excellent War in Context observes:

I’m a bit skeptical about this report. As an engineering feat I can’t see how 18-meter lengths of steel can be inserted into the ground without this being a highly visible (and audible) operation — large cranes, pneumatic hammers etc. The BBC report says:

For weeks local farmers have noticed more activity at the border where trees were being cut down, but very few of them were aware that a barrier was being built.

That is because the barrier, made of super-strength steel, has been hidden deep underground

Before this barrier can get hidden deep underground it has to get there from above ground.

The other thing that makes me skeptical is that I’m not at all sure that the Israelis have a big problem with the tunnels. The tunnels serve Israeli interests in multiple ways — as a propaganda tool (the means through which Hamas is rearmed and will thus need to be crushed at some point); as an adjunct to the siege (part of the drip-feed that maintains Gaza on a starvation diet with minimal expense to the Israelis); without the tunnels Israel would be forced to allow more materials through the borders and thus create the perception that it was relenting in enforcing the siege; the tunnels also provide an excuse for Israel to keep on bombing Gaza; and the fact that Hamas regulates and profits from the tunnel economy serves to undermine the organization’s political legitimacy. All in all, I’d say these add up to reasons why the Israelis would be quite happy keep the tunnel economy operating.


Sherine Tadros files a report on the alleged barrier for Al Jazeera

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This entry was posted on 11 December, 2009 by in Egypt, Gaza, Palestine, US Foreign Policy.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"