Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans on Sunday to erect a barrier along part of Israel's border with Egypt and install advanced surveillance equipment to keep out illegal migrants and militants.
"I took the decision to close Israel's southern border to infiltrators and terrorists. This is a strategic decision to secure Israel's Jewish and democratic character," Netanyahu said in a statement.
Thousands of African and other migrants have come to Israel through its porous border with Egypt over the last few years, fleeing conflict back home or searching for a better life in the Jewish state.
Netanyahu said that Israel would continue to accept refugees from conflict zones but "we cannot let tens of thousands of illegal workers infiltrate into Israel through the southern border and inundate our country with illegal aliens."
The project will cost one-billion shekels and will take two years to complete. The barrier will not be erected along the whole border, and advanced surveillance equipment will help border control officers to spot infiltrators.
Egyptian police have stepped up efforts in recent months to control the frontier with Israel following an increase in human trafficking through Egypt. At least 17 migrants have been killed by Egyptian police since May.
Israel is also building a controversial barrier in and around the occupied West Bank. It says the razor-tipped fences and towering concrete walls are needed to stop suicide bombers from infiltrating its cities. Palestinians call it a land grab.
It has so far built about half of the 670 km-long planned barrier.
Egypt is building an underground wall along its border with the Gaza Strip to stem Palestinian arms smuggling through tunnels.