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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Israel opens bids for Gaza moat
Destruction in Rafah
Israel says the moat could reduce weapons getting into southern Gaza
Israel's defence ministry has put in motion a plan to build a moat on Gaza's border with Egypt.

Israel says the canal would help stop Palestinian weapons smuggling on the border region after a pending pull-out from the Gaza Strip.

The moat is not a new idea but it resurfaced when Israel's cabinet voted in principle to unilaterally withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip.

The ministry is inviting bids from contractors who want the project.

15-25 metres deep
2.5 kilometres long
No estimate of cost available
To be completed before withdrawal from Gaza, before the end of 2005
The canal would be four kilometres long and 15-25 metres deep - part of security arrangements after a possible Israeli pullout.

Reports said the moat would be dug along the Philadelphi route - the security corridor between Gaza and Egypt.

Detailed map of southern Gaza

The multi-million dollar plan was floated last month by the Israeli military as a way to reduce weapons smuggling through tunnels into southern Gaza.

The ministry invited contractors to tour the project site and said one-year contracts would be issued, renewable for an additional 12 months.

It is not clear whether construction of the canal would mean destruction of Palestinian homes in the way, or whether the moat would be dry or filled with water.

In the past critics have warned that using salt water would damage the environment.

The BBC's Barbara Plett, in Jerusalem, says it is an example, though, of what disengagement could mean for Palestinians; rather than liberation a greater regime of containment around Gaza's borders.

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