Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Confusion in the Philadelphi corridor

There have been a lot of confusing reports coming out of the Philadelphi corridor over the last few days. Yes, the Egyptians sent 5000 troops there. No, the Egyptians did not send 5000 troops there. Yes, Israel is going to take action against arms smugglers operating in the corridor. Oops, Israel pulled its troops out halfway through the operation. Yes, the troops are going back in. I'm going to try to sort out some of the confusion for you.

You will recall that the Philadelphi corridor is a 100-meter strip that runs along the Egyptian-Gaza border from the point where the borders of Israel, Egypt and Gaza intersect until the Mediterranean Sea. Since Israel surrendered the Gaza Strip to the 'Palestinians' in August 2005, the corridor has become a massive smuggling zone, mostly for weapons, but also for drugs and prostitutes.

In November 2005, US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice 'brokered' an agreement between Israel and the Egyptians forced Israel to agree that the Egyptians would control security along the Philadelphi corridor, with European monitors observing on the Egyptian side of the border. In March, I blogged a WorldNetDaily article:
A senior Israel security official involved in the investigation of possible al-Qaida operatives in Gaza told WND last week he fears the global group can still make its way from Sinai into the Gaza Strip due to major security lapses at the Rafah crossing following a deal brokered in November by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A recent WorldNetDaily probe found Rice's international border agreement, which called for European monitors at the Rafah crossing, is allowing terrorists to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, where they are poised to attack Israel. WND also found the deal allows Gaza-based terrorists freedom to travel into Sinai, where they can meet with regional jihadists.

Rice's agreement, which Israel accepted reportedly after intense American pressure, restricted the Jewish state to monitor the area by camera, called for a European presence at the border station and offered the Palestinians some veto power on vehicles and persons entering Gaza.

New border rules stipulate Israel cannot restrict who leaves Gaza, but it can ask the European monitors to delay for several hours anyone crossing the border if Israel provides information indicating an entrant may be a security threat.

Israeli security officials told WND the cameras at the border are not sufficient to identify entrants, and they said the Palestinians have been failing to supply accurate and timely lists of individuals crossing into Gaza. They charged the Palestinians have tampered with the names of entrants, accusing Palestinian border workers of deliberately disguising the personal information of terrorists crossing the border.

"The result," one security officials said, "is that the border between Gaza and Egypt is nonexistent."

Indeed, several senior terrorists based in Gaza told WorldNetDaily the past few weeks they were able to cross into the Sinai and back without a problem.

One terror leader said he went to Egypt for "vacation."
The smuggling has only gotten worse, as I have noted several times.

Late Saturday night, I reported that Egypt was deploying 5000 troops to the Philadelphi area in order to head off an Israeli operation that would essentially mean retaking the corridor. That report has been confirmed and denied by everyone involved. Last night, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister Amir Comrade Peretz categorically denied it. But according to the Jerusalem Post (link above) , what did happen is that the Egyptians deployed 5000 'security guards' who are normally deployed throughout Sinai across the northern part of the peninsula in a bid to stop the smuggling and head off an Israeli smart bomb attack against the tunnels.

DEBKAfile reports that there is more at stake here than an Israeli raid to close the tunnels. It seems that the US has been pressuring Egypt and threatening to come in and do the job if the Egyptians won't:
The American delegation reported back that the Egyptian officers and personnel on the spot were not exactly straining themselves to guard the border; in fact, some were taking hefty bribes from the Palestinian terrorist organizations to shut their eyes to the traffic.

Acting on this report, the Bush administration turned to Cairo with a demand for US officers and counter-terror experts of the US-led MFO, the Multinational Forces and Observer force stationed in Sinai, to be attached to the Egyptian border units.

The Egyptian government took umbrage over the demand and decided to prove it was fully capable of handling border control without American supervision. One result was the dispatch of 5,000 security personnel to northern Sinai on Saturday, Oct. 28.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources disclose that the Americans were not convinced; they are continuing to press for US observers to join Egyptian units along the Philadelphi route dividing Gaza from Sinai, maintaining that MFO’s task in Sinai is to combat terror; putting a stop to Palestinian weapons smuggling including missiles, they say, is part of the war against world terror.
DEBKA is also reporting that this is not the first action the Egyptians have taken in a bid to mollify the Americans:
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the 5,000-strong force posted to northern Sinai was Cairo’s third action in two weeks to fend off the pressure from Washington.

The two previous steps were:

1. The tip-off to Israel on the locations of 13 smuggling tunnel exits within the Philadelphi route on the Gazan side of the border. IDF units on special tunnel-hunting expeditions earlier this month were able to blow the shafts up. But Egypt gained points for doing very little. Cairo much prefers Israel to destroy the tunnels at the Gaza end rather than having its own security police halt the traffic at the Sinai entrances. Demolishing the shafts in Gaza leaves the main galleys in Sinai whole and ready for reuse by Palestinian weapons smugglers.

2. Friday, Oct. 27, Egypt announced that Bedouin goatherds had “discovered” a ton of explosives hidden in the Rissan mountain range of central Sinai, 30 km from the Egyptian-Israeli border. [I think that should be October 20. CiJ] Al Qaeda’s Sinai cells and their Bedouin collaborators are holed up in a well-fortified hideout on this range. Repeated Egyptian security forces operations to flush them out in the last two years always ran into trouble. Our sources report that the Bedouins’ “discovery” of the explosive cache was not exactly fortuitous. It was handed to Egyptian intelligence agents under the command of Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman after long haggling with the Bedouin chiefs, who were well rewarded with cash and promises of better living conditions.

According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the Americans were not taken in by the two Egyptian gestures as proof of a serious effort to stem the flow of smuggled arms through Sinai to Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.
The Americans have troops in the Sinai as part of the multi-national peace keeping force that has been posted there since the Israel - Egypt treaty of 1979. They could easily move some of those troops to patrol the Philadelphi corridor. But the Egyptians don't want that to happen.

The implication of all this is that the Egyptian force is still there, if not in the Philadelphi area, at least somewhere along the northern area of the Sinai peninsula - i.e. along the border between Israel and the Sinai. This morning, we are assured that the IDF is going to take action "soon" to stop the smugglers in Philadelphi. Caroline Glick finds all this alarming. She does not trust that the Egyptians have good intentions. Neither does Yuval Steinitz of the Likud, the former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee:
The fact that Egypt wishes to prevent Israel from stemming the flow of weapons to Gaza - which Egypt itself is supposed to be cutting off - should tell us all we need to know about Egypt's intentions. But apparently the government and Southern Command weren't listening. Sunday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz denied that Egyptian forces had been deployed along the border. An IDF commander in the Southern Command strangely expressed satisfaction at Egypt's move arguing that with the larger force Egypt would finally take action to prevent the arms transfers. The Foreign Ministry assured the public that the peace treaty with Egypt allows Cairo to deploy an unlimited number of "policemen" in the Sinai.

It is hard to decide which is more frightening, Egypt's move or Israel's response to it.

As MK Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee explains, Egypt's sudden decision to deploy a massive force along the border is a strategic threat of the first order to Israel. "Egypt," he explains, "is taking advantage of the weakness and incompetence of the government."

Over the past decade, Egypt has been assiduously preparing its military for war against Israel. From the ideological indoctrination of its forces, to its massive armament programs, to the relocation of its military installations, units and logistical bases to both sides of the Suez Canal, to the training of its troops to fight "an unnamed country on Egypt's northern border," Steinitz warns that Egypt has done more than Iran to ready its forces for war against Israel.

Rather than protest Egypt's actions, successive Israeli governments have swallowed whole Egypt's strategic deception. Egypt protests friendship and pretends to combat terrorism and prevent weapons smuggling into the Sinai.

Yet under this friendly guise, Egypt has legitimized Palestinian terrorists and stood behind the massive weapons smuggling operations. As Steinitz puts it, "Egypt is to Palestinian terrorism what Syria is to Hizbullah.

"The weapons to the Palestinians are brought in through Egyptian ports and El-Arish and are imported by land from Sudan. Those latter imports have to traverse Egypt on their way to Gaza. There is no way that the Egyptian government is not colluding with the weapons shippers."

AS STEINITZ notes, over the past eight months the weapons being shipped to Gaza have been sharply upgraded. Egypt today is overseeing the import of sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as upgraded Katyusha rockets to Palestinian terror groups.

And now Mubarak is sending 5,000 "policemen to the border." As Steinitz notes, Israel has no way of knowing who these forces are, whether they are police or commandos or infantry or anti-aircraft units. He warns, that "If Israel does nothing to prevent their deployment today, there is no reason to doubt that in a year or two there will be tens of thousands of Egyptian troops along the border with Israel."

As Steinitz notes, not only does every single Egyptian soldier deployed along the border have a job to do in time of war, today they are perched along the border with the Negev, where, as the government turns its back on them and the IDF applauds their deployment, they are within striking distance of some of the IDF's most important military bases and strategic installations.
So what's really going on? The Americans want to do the job that the Egyptians won't do. The Egyptians are either preparing for war with Israel or they are trying to stop Israel from taking action against the 'Palestinians' and their weapons smuggling - from which the Egyptians are undoubtedly profiting as well. Or more likely both. And Olmert, Peretz and Livni continue to fiddle as Israel's borders slowly burn.


Post a Comment

<< Home