New York – Israeli intelligence officials have disclosed that large amounts of weaponry, including automatic assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and hundreds of kilograms of explosives have been smuggled across the Egyptian border into Gaza and then Judea/Samaria during the past week, when Egyptian and Palestinian Authority (PA) personnel allowed the movement of fugitives and arms into Gaza in the wake of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal.
The head of Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, speaking in a rare on-the-record briefing with military reporters, said yesterday that the Palestinians were making enormous efforts to acquire rockets and other weapons to be used in the West Bank, smuggled in from the Sinai. Diskin stated that Palestinian terrorists were increasingly likely to initiate attacks from the West Bank.
Diskin also said that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups took advantage of the euphoric chaos after the Israel Defense Forces abandoned the Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border to smuggle in huge amounts of weapons and arms, as well as return fugitives wanted for organizing terrorist attacks. In one incident, a Hamas convoy of 15 jeeps crossed one day and returned laden with arms and explosives.
According to Shin Bet data, 3,000 rifles, 1.5 million bullets, 150-200 rocket propelled grenades and hundreds of kilograms of explosives have been smuggled in so far. There were also reports that shoulder-fired Strella or Stinger missiles or advanced anti-tank rockets were also smuggled into the Gaza Strip, but Diskin said this could not yet be confirmed (Jerusalem Post, September 22).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is already crystal clear that the Israeli government, by withdrawing from Gaza and handing over border control to the Egyptians and Palestinians, has made it much easier for Arab terrorists to smuggle weapons in to murder Jews. We are deeply concerned by this development, because Israel now lacks the power to intercept weaponry intended for Palestinian terrorist groups.
“During the free-for-all of last week, in which Egypt and the PA made no effort to halt the flow of people and arms across the border, untold numbers of terrorists and illegal weapons — not just rifles and bullets, (which would be bad enough) but rocket propelled grenades, high explosives and possibly even anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles — have poured into Gaza, to be used in the next massive wave of terror against Israel in Judea/Samaria.
“The United States backed this Gaza withdrawal plan and President Bush said publicly more than once that he believed that it would bring Israel better security. Today, the opposite is happening, and the Shin Bet report amply confirms this. It is a greater imperative now than ever before that the United States insists that the PA confiscate illegal weaponry and do its utmost to prevent its deployment against Israel.
“If Egypt and the PA refuse to prevent the successful smuggling of weapons into Gaza, the ZOA urges the United States to make it clear to both parties that there will be consequences, including a significant reduction in U.S. financial aid. [Egypt now receive $2.1 billion and the PA $300 million in aid from the U.S.].”