Intifada's Weapons Flow Easily Through Jordan

(San Francisco Chronicle) Anna Badkhen - Since August, Jordanian law enforcement has arrested at least eight suspected gunrunners from Iraq to the Palestinian territories and convicted four more. But experts say the arrests account for just a fraction of an elaborate gunrunning system that smuggles Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, handguns, and ammunition from Iraq to Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamadah Faraneh, a former member of the Jordanian parliament and a convicted smuggler, said gunrunners use Route 5 which begins about 60 miles east of the Iraqi border and stretches south across the Jafar Desert to the city of Maan, 130 miles south of Amman. From there, arms smugglers deliver their goods to Aqaba, Jordan's Red Sea port. The weapons travel by sea to the Sinai Desert in Egypt, then overland and through underground passages into the Gaza Strip. In Maan, a Kalashnikov costs about $210. In the Palestinian territories, it can cost more than $1,000. "The majority of the smugglers are Jordanians, and the Jordanians know the desert, they have connections with Bedouin tribesmen," said Faraneh. Next week, a military court is expected to begin trial of Abdul-Halim al- Gharaybeh, a 26-year-old truck driver from northern Jordan. Police found 62 anti-personnel and anti-tank rockets and launchers, as well as ammunition it says he brought from Iraq and intended to smuggle to Gaza. Jordanian intelligence thwarted a Hizballah attempt last November to smuggle Katyusha rockets to the Palestinians - and then quietly allowed the smugglers to return to Lebanon.

2002-12-13 00:00:00

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