New York – Yuval Diskin, the head of Israels security service, Shin Bet, has told the Israeli Cabinet that Egypt is ignoring Palestinian weapons smuggling into Gaza from Egypt. Diskin said that since Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in August 2005, an estimated 19 tons of military grade explosives have been smuggled into Gaza from Sinai. The Shin Bet chief also said that the Egyptian authorities are aware of the ongoing smuggling, and even know the smugglers identities, yet have avoided taking any action against them, even when Israel has made specific requests for the detention of key individuals (Haaretz, September 28, 2006).
Almost exactly a year ago, in the weeks immediately following Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, Diskin disclosed to military reporters that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups had taken advantage of the euphoric chaos after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) 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 already at that time, 3,000 rifles, 1.5 million bullets, 150-200 rocket propelled grenades and hundreds of kilograms of explosives had been smuggled in (Jerusalem Post, September 22, 2005).
Last November, then-Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that border control in Gaza was incomplete and warned that Israel would unilaterally close the crossing if border security did not improve ( Israel National News, November 30, 2005). However the crossings have not been closed. Last December, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon warned that Al Qaeda elements were already infiltrating Gaza to set up a terrorist infrastructure (Forward, December 30, 2005).
Also in January, Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that, The amount of weapons and explosives smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Egypt has grown drastically, by more than 300 percent … If before the disengagement they smuggled in 200 to 300 rifles a month, they are now smuggling in close to 3,000. Diskin also observed that Palestinians have smuggled three anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza, something they had not succeeded in doing before the unilateral pull out of Gaza, in addition to nearly 200 rocket propelled grenades, 350 anti-tank missiles and tons of explosives being smuggled in monthly (Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2006).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The failure of Egypt to stop the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza was completely predictable at the time Israel agreed to cede security control of the Gaza-Egypt border to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA). At the time, when we at the ZOA and others urged Israel to retain security control over the Egypt-Gaza border, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert basically told us not to worry, saying Egypt would effectively look after security. We said that it was not credible to believe that Egypt would risk Egyptian Arab lives to protect those of Israeli Jews and argued that ceding control to Egypt and the PA would only make it much easier for Arab terrorists to smuggle in weapons to murder Jews. Yuval Diskins latest report to the Olmert government merely confirms that this has been the case consistently since the Gaza withdrawal over a year ago. We strongly urge the Israeli government to stop ignoring the serious deterioration in security in Gaza and take action to secure Israel from the dangers of weaponry being smuggled into Gaza from Egypt.