Israeli police arrest Eritrean citizens suspected of assisting Egyptian gangs in abducting African refugees for ransom. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will construct a barrier to prevent refugees from infiltrating its southern border.
JERUSALEM (JANUARY 21, 2010) CHANNEL 2 - Israeli police arrested two Eritrean citizens suspected of collaborating with Egyptian gangs in the abducting of African refugees who tried to infiltrate the border with Israel, a lifted gag order revealed on Thursday (January 21).
Israeli police said that the gangs extorted the families of African citizens and asked for a ransom in exchange for their release.
Israeli media reported that the suspects, 34-year-old Nabsi Habati, 41-year-old Fatawi Aziabhir, were arrested last week by police, and have been charged with collecting ransom from relatives of the African captives. No suspects were arrested in Egypt.
A statement issued by a police spokesperson said a special police unit became aware of the gang last year, when refugees residing in Israel filed complaints saying that their relatives were being held captive in prison camps in the Sinai peninsula and would be released only for a ransom.
It's believed the money was to be given to Habati and Fatawi in Israel.
Police seized $100,000 (U.S. dollars) in a raid of their Jerusalem apartment when they were arrested.
The statement said the abducted refugees were abused and tortured while they were held by the Egyptian gangs in Sinai camps.
A third man, Mohammed Ibrahim, was also named as taking part in the operation and police found $50,000 in his home at the time of his arrest.
All three men are being detained until the end of police proceedings, police spokesperson said.
At a conference centre near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he planned to erect a barrier along part of Israel's border with Egypt to stop the flow of illegal migrants.
"It must be stopped and we are going to stop it. From here, I'm going to fly to the Negev, to Mount Harif (in Southern Israel), near Gaza, in order to tour ahead of a government decision which will be presented in a week or two at the most. This decision will be to form a barrier to (prevent) infiltration from Africa to Israel," Netanyahu said.
He later toured Israel's southern border area with Egypt.
Sudanese refugees began entering Israel through Egypt on a regular basis in 2005. Numbers increased as violence raged in the troubled Darfur region while more came from Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Chad.
Some hoped the Jewish state would provide a gateway to Europe, while others were eager to stay.
The Israeli government estimates more than 12,000 migrants live in Israel, most of them illegally.
It has faced fierce criticism from non-governmental organisations over the health neglect and poor living conditions of refugees inside its borders.