Israeli weed smokers choked by border fence with Egypt

Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:49am EST
 
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By Maayan Lubell

ISRAEL-EGYPT BORDER (Reuters) - Israel's newly fortified Egyptian border has delivered a severe blow to drug smugglers, forcing its hashish and marijuana smokers to deal with a new kind of high - soaring prices.

The ravines that snake past rocky red mountains once provided a popular, low-risk route for traffickers to run drugs, women and African migrants into Israel over the southern frontier along Egypt's Sinai desert.

But with a rise in Islamist militant violence in Sinai, Israel in 2011 accelerated the fortification of the border with a five-meter (16-foot)-high fence, state-of-the art surveillance and special military forces - with a crippling side effect for smugglers.

And as workers weld the few remaining patches of the metal barrier, drug supply in Israel is down and prices are up.

"We've hit smuggling hard. Just last week we caught almost 100 kilos of hashish. That's millions of shekels," said a senior Israeli military officer in the area.

As far as the army is concerned, any breach of the border could be a potential militant attack by one of the jihadi groups that inhabit the Sinai. That is why soldiers can find themselves dealing with criminal activity together with police.

The Bedouin traffickers have deep knowledge of the millennia-old trade route, the officer said.

"They (the smugglers) know the terrain as well as we do. They collect intelligence on us and observe our movements. They do all that well, but we wait for them at the right spots and we catch them."   Continued...

 
An Egyptian watch tower is seen close to the construction site of a barrier on the border between Israel and Egypt along Israel's Highway 12, a desert road north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat, in this February 15, 2012 file picture. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/Files