Security Minister Dichter: Israelis subjected
to Gaza rockets could increase tenfold
to Gaza rockets could increase tenfold
New York Last week, for the first time since Hamas violent takeover of Gaza in June, Egypt unilaterally opened the Rafah border terminal and allowed 1,700 Palestinians, who claimed to be religious pilgrims on their way to Mecca but among whom were terrorists seeking training abroad, to pass through to Sinai. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intelligence estimates indicate that up to a couple of dozen Hamas terrorists were among the so-called pilgrims Egypt allowed out of the Gaza Strip. In recent years, hundreds of Hamas terrorists have traveled abroad to Iran and Lebanon for military training, and Israeli officials said it was possible that these terrorists would do the same.
Israel has filed a complaint with Cairo following these developments, a senior Israeli diplomat saying, This is a clear breach of agreements we have made with the Egyptians, speaking in reference to the November 2005 agreement under which the Rafah Crossing was opened. The official also said the unilateral opening of the border had been preceded by another breach of agreements in October, when Egypt allowed 85 Hamas operatives to cross back into Gaza after cutting a hole in the border fence. Israel also remains concerned at Egypts failure to honor its agreements with Israel by failing to stop the smuggling of weapons and explosives via tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. According to recent assessments, since Hamas takeover, the terror group has smuggled into Gaza 100 tons of explosives, millions of bullets, hundreds of anti-tank missiles and even a small number of Katyusha rockets.
A delegation of American military engineers recently toured the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border and was shown a number of tunnels that the Egyptians tried to portray as being too small for weapons-smuggling. According to Israeli officials, the delegation was not convinced and demanded that Cairo take more decisive action against the smuggling industry. We have no doubt that if they only wanted to, they are capable of curbing the smuggling a defense official said (Jerusalem Post , December 6, 2007).
As a result of Egypts failure, Israels Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, warned yesterday of a tenfold increase in the number of Israelis subjected to a war of attrition should Ashkelon and nearby communities also fall under the threat of Palestinian terror and Qassem rocket fire. Dichter said, We must check to see where we went wrong and deal with the problem of Sderot if we do not want to face the same problem when Ashkelon, Ofakim and Netivot will enter the cycle of rocket fire and terror … Qassem attacks are being carried out daily and we have also seen an increase in mortar fire directed at IDF bases near the Strip … Statistics indicating an 8% drop in the number of students in Sderot are extremely worrying. We must not allow any mistakes that may raise the number of Israeli communities facing the Qassem threat (Yediot Ahronot, December 9, 2007).
Past statements by senior Israeli defense and security establishment officials and analysts on Egypts failure to stop weapons smuggling and co-operate in ending terror from Gaza:
- Yuval Diskin, head, Israels security service, Shin Bet: 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).
- Diskin: 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).
- Palestinian affairs analyst Ehud Yaari: 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, 2006).
- Israeli Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter: 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, 2006).
Diskin: Said that Egyptian security forces are failing to stop the steadily increasing smuggling of weaponry from the Sinai to Palestinian Arab terror groups inside the Gaza Strip and disclosed that there has been a massive rise in the Palestinian Arab smuggling of arms into Gaza — up from 6 tons of high-grade explosives in 2005 to 30 tons in 2006. Moreover, according to Diskin, the terrorist group. Diskin refused to explain the reason behind Egypts refusal to properly combat the weapons smuggling, but indicated that Cairo was using the claim that it needed still more soldiers along the border as an excuse to make changes to the treaty. He also said that Egypt confines its efforts to border patrol but does not act against the smuggling infrastructure inside the Egyptian border town of Rafah. If Egypt starts to thwart the transfer of weapons then that will slow down the terror buildup in Gaza and stave off a[n Israeli] military operation there. They [the Egyptians] have a key in their hands and they know it (Jerusalem Post , February 5, 2007).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, Egypts violations of the agreement by which it received control of the Gaza/Egypt border crossing continue to assists terrorism and harm the cause of peace. Egypt has not sealed the border, though it was allowed to reinforce its presence there last year with over 700 troops for this very purpose. It has not stopped terrorist entering and leaving Gaza. It is not stopping terrorist digging tunnels. It is not stopping terrorists travelling through Sinai.
This continuing failure to fulfill its obligations to fight and thwart terrorism bear out ZOAs long-standing concern and criticism of Egypts malicious conduct. The ZOA condemns Egypts blatant and continuing failure to live up to the agreements it made with Israel as part of the Gaza withdrawal to seal the border following Israels withdrawal in 2005.
There is simply no excuse for Egypt refusing to use the forces available and approved for security purposes to intercept terrorists and smugglers bringing in men and weaponry into Gaza or refusing to cooperate closely with their Israeli counterparts. It is mystifying that, in agreeing to Egypts security role on the Gaza border, former Prime Minister Sharon believed that Egypt would comply with the agreement. Given continued Egyptian hostility to Israel despite the peace treaty signed in 1979, including promotion of anti-Semitism in its media and discouragement of cultural and economic ties with Israel, Egypt cannot be entrusted with matters of security.
After two years of blatant Egyptian failure to live up to its obligations, the Bush Administration should immediately pressure the Mubarak government to secure the border with Gaza and cooperate fully with Israel in preventing terrorism and the passage of terrorists through the border crossing. As we have previously pointed out, the infiltration of terrorists and weaponry into Gaza from Egypt includes elements of Al Qaeda. The Bush Administration should demand speedy results from the Mubarak government. Egypt simply does not merit American support and billions of dollars in annual U.S. aid if it refuses to behave like an ally and work towards the ending of terrorism in its region and against U.S. allies.
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