Netanyahu says African migrants worse threat than extremists

Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Negev Development Conference in Dimona: ‘Were it not for the fence, we would be faced with ... severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse, a flood of illegal migrants from Africa.’ (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Netanyahu says African migrants worse threat than extremists

DIMONA, Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that an electronic fence along the Israel-Egypt border has saved the Jewish state from extremist attacks or what he believes would be worse — a tide of African migrants.
“Were it not for the fence, we would be faced with ... severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse, a flood of illegal migrants from Africa,” Netanyahu’s office quoted him as telling a development conference in the southern Israel desert town of Dimona.
The interior ministry says there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, and the government has ordered that thousands of them must leave or face indefinite imprisonment.
They began slipping into Israel illegally in 2007 through what was then a porous border with Egypt’s lawless Sinai region.
The frontier with Israel’s Negev desert has since been given a 200-kilometer (124 mile) hi-tech fence and the influx has halted.
Netanyahu said a tide of non-Jewish immigration would threaten the very fabric of Israel.
“We are talking about a Jewish and democratic state, but how could we assure a Jewish and democratic state with 50,000 and then 100,000 and 150,000 migrants a year,” Netanyahu said.
“After a million, 1.5 million, we might as well shut up shop,” he added. “We did not close down, we built a fence.”
Today the mountainous Sinai is a battleground between the Egyptian army and Daesh extremists.
The army launched a campaign on February 9 after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is standing in elections this month for a second term, gave it a three-month deadline to crush Daesh in the Sinai.
Sissi issued his ultimatum in November after suspected Daesh gunmen killed more than 300 worshippers at a Sinai mosque associated with Sufi Muslim mystics.


Syrian army pushes into Quneitra province: State TV, rebels

Updated 3 min 32 sec ago
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Syrian army pushes into Quneitra province: State TV, rebels

  • The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest, strategic territory at the borders with Jordan and Israel
  • More than 2,500 people, among them fighters from extremist groups who have rejected the deal, left on Friday headed to opposition areas in northern Syria

AMMAN: The Syrian army and its allies made advances in the southwest that bring it closer to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights border, state television and rebels said on Saturday.
The army, backed by a Russian air campaign, has been pushing into the edges of Quneitra province following an offensive last month that routed rebels in adjoining Daraa province who were once backed by Washington, Jordan and Gulf states.
The offensive has restored Syrian government control over a swathe of the southwest, strategic territory at the borders with Jordan and Israel.
The capture of a string of villages in a zone extending between the two southwestern provinces, announced by the army on Saturday, comes as a second group of rebels and their relatives are expected to evacuate to northern Syria later in the day.
A deal negotiated by Russian officers with rebels in the Quneitra area last week allows safe passage to rebels opposed to a return to state rule, while offering others who decide to stay Russian guarantees against army encroachments in their own localities, rebels say.
It also allows the return of Syrian army brigades that existed before the 2011 conflict back to where they were stationed near a 1974 demilitarized zone with Israel on the Golan frontier.
More than 2,500 people, among them fighters from extremist groups who have rejected the deal, left on Friday headed to opposition areas in northern Syria.
Other phases of the agreement, which includes the handover of weapons and the entry of Russian military police in some villages, were expected to be implemented in coming days, a rebel source said
Tens of thousands of people have been sheltering at the frontier since the Russian and Syrian aerial bombing campaign that the opposition called a scorched earth policy began one month ago.
Russia has been exerting pressure on the Syrian army to facilitate the return of many of the displaced and has also lobbied the United Nations to send regular convoys of aid to ease the humanitarian crisis triggered by the offensive, UN officials said.
A senior Western diplomatic source said Moscow, which has reached understandings with Israel and Jordan that made it possible to move with the offensive, was keen to stabilize the border area to prove that its Syria intervention sought a political settlement to the seven-year-old conflict.