Gen. Almog: Gaza evacuation
hurt Israeli security
New York – A number of Israeli military and political figures have called for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to retake control of the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border in order to stop the increased flow of weaponry to Palestinian Arab terrorists in Gaza. Former Officer Commanding Southern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog said that a military incursion would not suffice and that There is a need for a permanent IDF presence in the area. Almog went on to say that the nature of the weapons smuggling was at an advanced stage and that the IDF operation had to lessen the extent of the activity as much as possible. In order to meaningfully reduce the smuggling, we cannot rely solely on one operation or even a string of operations — we need a physical presence there. The former Southern Command chief said that if the IDF had not withdrawn last year from the Gaza Strip, the security situation in the region would be vastly superior ( Jerusalem Post, October 20).
Additionally, two Olmert government ministers have made similar calls to reassert control over the Philadelphi Corridor. Industry and Trade Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) told reporters before yesterdays Cabinet meeting that even before Israel left the Philadelphi Corridor last year, the area was an opening to hell and that Israel needed to find a way to reassert control over it. Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan (Gil) has also stated that Gaza was a problem, and that we need to sit on the Philadelphi Corridor for a long period of time ( Jerusalem Post, October 22).
Also earlier this month, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman, Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) and former Officer Commanding Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Ground Forces, Maj.-Gen. Yiftah Ron-Tal, acknowledged that last years Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was mistake ( Jerusalem Post, October 4 & 5). Last month, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israels security service, Shin Bet, told the Israeli Cabinet 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 (Haaretz, September 28).
However, yesterday the IDF withdrew from the Philadelphi Corridor after a week-long operation there, during which soldiers uncovered at least 15 weapons smuggling tunnels running under the narrow strip along the Egyptian border. Defense Minister Amir Peretz said at Sundays cabinet meeting that Israel had no intention of re-occupying Gaza, but was committed to acting to prevent attacks. A recent IDF intelligence report has warned that the pace of smuggling by terrorist groups in Gaza, as well as the quality of weapons being imported, is increasing.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The consequences of Israels unilateral retreat from Gaza and in particular its relinquishing of control over the Philadelphi Corridor are becoming plain for all to see — more weapons smuggling, more danger for Israel, less security and quiet. It is also clear that if Israel is to successfully fight terrorism in Gaza, it must at a minimum retake the Philadelphi Corridor. We again 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.