New York – The former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, Yuval Steinitz, has said that the infiltration from Egypt of the suicide bomber who murdered three Israelis in Eilat earlier this week shows that Egypt is not preventing terrorists and weapons being smuggled from Egypt. He added that this and other events since Israel relinquished control of the Philadelphi Corridor along the Egypt-Gaza border in 2005 shows that his criticism of this move at the time was entirely correct.
Describing this as one of Israels worst mistakes in history, Steinitz said, It has been proven that we cannot trust the Palestinians or the Egyptians, who are conducting a campaign of intentionally ignoring the arms smuggling into Gaza. Egypt has decided to enable the arming of the Palestinian people and all the terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, against the State of Israel … Egypt is not acting like Jordan, which liquidates the smuggling networks and prevents quantities of arms from reaching the border. Steinitz continues to emphasize even now that Egypt helps train terrorists by enabling them to pass from Gaza to Lebanon and Iran for training, briefing and receiving new terrorist methods and technologies. He believes that U.S. pressure on Egypt, at the behest of Israel, could help improve the situation (Israel National News , January 31, 2007).
In 2006 alone, Israel reportedly captured over 100 Palestinian terrorists who tried to sneak into Israel from Sinai, despite the presence of Egyptian forces there supposedly preventing terrorist infiltration. These included suicide bombers, weapons experts and other terrorists plotting to carry out various types of attacks. Moreover, Egypt has allowed Palestinian terrorists a free hand in smuggling weapons, personnel and funds into Gaza, essentially ignoring Israeli protests and pleas. And in the past 30 months, there have been three Al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks in Sinai aimed at Israeli and foreign tourists — the October 2004 bombings in Taba and Ras Shitan, the July 2005 attack in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the April 2006 bombings in Dahab — which left 120 people killed (Israel National News, January 30, 2007).
Yuval Diskin, the head of Israels security service, Shin Bet, already told the Israeli Cabinet last September 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. Diskin also said that the Egyptian authorities were aware of the ongoing smuggling, and even know the smugglers identities, yet avoided taking any action against them, even when Israel had made specific requests for the detention of key individuals (Haaretz, September 28, 2006). According to Shin Bet data, Palestinian terrorists succeeded in smuggling into Gaza from Egypt 3,000 rifles, 1.5 million bullets, 150-200 rocket propelled grenades and hundreds of kilograms of explosives in the weeks immediately following Israels Gaza withdrawal in September 2005 (Jerusalem Post, September 22, 2005).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, All the evidence since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and especially the Philadelphi Corridor bears out Yuval Steinitzs conclusion that Israel committed a major mistake in leaving Gaza, one against which the ZOA warned at the time. The consequences are 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. When ZOA 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 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. Israel should be mounting a diplomatic offensive in Washington, which annually gives Egypt over $2 billion, exposing Egypts bad faith in fighting terrorism and its turning a blind eye to the infiltration of terrorists and weaponry from Egypt.