Palestinians Ramp Up Weapons Smuggling into Gaza

(Ha'aretz) Amos Harel - Egyptian security forces' diminished control in Sinai has allowed the Palestinians to exponentially increase their weapons smuggling into Gaza, senior Israeli defense officials say. In the past few months, Hamas has acquired improved high-trajectory rockets, ready-made explosive devices, anti-tank missiles and possibly anti-aircraft missiles, the sources told Ha'aretz. In recent years much of the weapons smuggling into Gaza has been coordinated by Iran, rising steeply after the Israeli withdrawal from the Strip in 2005. After the Libyan army lost control of vast weapons stores in the east of the country, local arms dealers made contact with Gaza smugglers, and new weapons began to flow by a much shorter and easier route. Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter told Ha'aretz: "The Sinai went from being an area through which they smuggle weapons to an area through which they simply transfer weapons....No Egyptian security official dares to confront the Bedouin anymore." Dichter said parts of the steel fence on the Rafah border, which Egypt began to construct last year, were already being dismantled by the Bedouin. He said Iran and Hamas want to concentrate large stores of weapons in Gaza and, when the opportunity arises, to deliver them to the West Bank.

2011-07-25 00:00:00

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