MK Steinitz & analyst Yaari agree
The Israeli Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, has complained to US officials in Washington that Egypt is allowing smuggling by Palestinian terrorist groups of weapons into Gaza from Egypt, which is massively increasing. In talks with US National Security Advisor, Steve Hadley, Dichter urged Washington to apply pressure on Cairo to do more to seal its border with the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians can and have to do a lot more to prevent the smuggling of arms to the Gaza Strip … The Americans dont know the scope of the smugglings and the Egyptians capabilities. I believe that the Egyptians have considerable capabilities to make sure that the smugglings are prevented and thats what I said ( Yediot Ahronot, October 19).
Additionally, Member of Knesset, Yuval Steinitz (Likud), former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in a meeting yesterday with American Jewish leaders in New York City, complained bitterly that Egypt is doing nothing to stop the smuggling.
Israel has been alarmed by recent intelligence reports pointing to intensified efforts by Palestinian terror groups to smuggle sophisticated weapons to the Gaza Strip. At least eight tunnels used to smuggle arms were uncovered by the army over the last two days, most of which were dug along the Philadephi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border.
Also, a veteran analyst of Palestinian Affairs, Ehud Yaari, has disclosed that Palestinian Arab terrorist groups have been massively increasing their smuggling of weaponry into Gaza from Egypt. Yaari, who is Middle East commentator on Israel Television and Associate Editor and columnist for the Jerusalem Report, writes in a recent column that there is an unprecedented arms-acquisition effort … underway in the Gaza Strip.
Yaari discloses that close to 20 tons of standard explosives have been smuggled into Gaza since Israel withdrew last summer, along with thousands of rocket-propelled grenade launchers and large quantities of rifles, pistols and grenades. Also, several Katyusha rocket launchers, like those used by Hizballah against northern Israel, are already in the hands of Hamas and other terror groups. It is only a matter of time before they also get hold of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft rockets and, even more troubling, third generation anti-tank missiles, like the Russian Koronet. Such weaponry will enable the terrorists to effectively target vehicles and structures 3-4 kilometers [2 to 2.75 miles] inside Israel, and not to have to depend on their primitive high-trajectory Qassam rockets. Also under way is a feverish campaign to dig tunnels into Israel under the security barrier around the Strip, with the aim of facilitating terror attacks in Israel.
What all this means is that the Israeli government will have to decide sooner rather than later whether to implement the recommendation of the army and the security services to retake the area along the border between the PA and Egypt. Such a move will entail operating inside residential neighborhoods of the city of Rafiah, and will once again turn the Gaza Strip into a sealed-off enclave. The diplomatic harvest that Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert hoped to reap from the withdrawal will simply wither away. The alternative is for Gaza to continue becoming a huge stockpile of weapons and ammunition that must ultimately explode, with disastrous consequences ( Jerusalem Report, October 16).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The US should use its $2.1 billion annual aid to Cairo as leverage with the Egyptian regime in order to make it clear that Egypt must stop the weapons smuggling. Moreover, Secretary Rice pressured Israel to give up all control over the Gaza-Egypt border crossing, eliminating Israels ability to be involved in stopping the smuggling. It is Egypt s responsibility to stop the flow of weapons to terrorists. Otherwise, the weapons now flowing into Gaza will lead to a new terrorist wave in which hundreds of Jews could be murdered. The ZOA urges the Bush Administration to take this step immediately.
Avi Dichter and Yuval Steinitzs disclosures and Ehud Yaaris analysis are not only distressing in themselves but confirm other reports of massive Palestinian weapons smuggling that has included anti-aircraft missiles and Katyusha rockets, neither of which Palestinians had succeeded in smuggling into Gaza prior to Israels unilateral withdrawal last year. This withdrawal included Israel ceding control of the Philadelphia corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border to Palestinian Authority (PA) control and placed more importance on the role played by Egypt, which has not stopped the flow of weapons into Gaza .
The ZOA warned against the dire consequences of this move at the time and its likely consequences and urged that the Israeli government to reverse its decision and retake control. Last November, we stated that security for Israel would be weakened by handing over authority for the Gaza-Egypt border to the PA and Egypt and … there has been an influx of illegal weaponry and terrorists into Gaza from Egypt since Israel withdrew from Gaza. Now, the crossing is to be reopened but Israel will have no power to stop terrorists or goods entering Gaza. Tragically, as Yaari explains in detail, this is precisely what has continued to happen.
Therefore, it is not surprising that this week, a year after unilaterally retreating from Gaza and the Egyptian border area and uprooting 9,000 Jews from their homes, schools, synagogues, farms and businesses, Israeli forces returned to take over control of the border area and started destroying smuggling tunnels that had been previously detected by Israeli forces but rebuilt as soon as Israel left last year. In recent weeks, twenty such tunnels have been discovered in the area. There is no substitute for Israel at a minimum exercising security control in this area. We urge the Olmert government to reassert Israeli control indefinitely in this area, irrespective of whatever international pressure might be exerted on Israel to again leave. The security of Israeli men, women and children and indeed of the country itself, must take precedence over the opinions of foreign leaders and governments