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Friday, October 20, 2006

Egyptian police intercept large arms shipment bound for Gaza Strip as IDF tries to find hundreds of weapons tunnels

Egyptian police have intercepted a large arms shipment that was bound for the Gaza Strip today from the Egyptian controlled Sinai peninsula. The interception comes as IDF officers have openly noted that they fear that a weapons tunnel from the Gaza Strip may be used to attack one or more of the Kibbutzim on the border between Israel and Gaza. IDF sources noted yesterday that a raid inside Israel, through one of the tunnels being dug in the Gaza Strip, would be considered a substantial operational gain for the terrorists and would help them score a propaganda victory. This is not the first time that large weapons smuggling operations have been stopped since Israel surrendered the Gaza Strip to the 'Palestinians' in August 2005.

A total of 13 tunnels have been uncovered during IDF operations in Gaza in the last three days, along with a number of shafts for not yet completed tunnels. Some of the uncovered tunnels originated inside homes close to the border with Egypt. Homes like the one Rachel Corrie died protecting (yes, this is the same area where Rachel Corrie decided to try to block a bulldozer with her body and earned the name "St. Pancake").

Six tunnels have been destroyed in controlled demolitions by IDF sappers.

Arms and explosives smuggling from Egypt into the Gaza Strip is worse than originally estimated, IDF sources said yesterday. In January, they estimated 3000 rifles a day. I wonder how many there are now.

According to the same sources, dozens of tunnels have been used for uninterrupted smuggling activities during the past year.

In today's action, three Bedouin were arrested trying to smuggle nearly 200 crates of automatic weapons and ammunition from Egypt into Gaza, Egyptian police said. If they were carrying that much at once, they clearly did not expect anyone to bother them. Haaretz notes that
Egyptian police seized the weapons on a truck in the village of Ballouza, some 100 kilometers east of the Egypt-Gaza border.

The smugglers were heading north to the village of Sheik Zuwayed, where they planned to veer off-road toward the border, north Sinai police Captain Essam Rizk said.

The Bedouin confessed that they were planning to smuggle the weapons to Palestinians through underground tunnels in the border town of Rafah, Rizk said.
But giving the 'Palestinians' the Gaza Strip was just a brilliant security move, wasn't it? The only move that was worse was Olmert allowing US Secretary of State Rice to twist his arm into accepting Egyptian control of the Philadelphi corridor. Now, Israel is depending upon the Egyptians for its protection.

But it gets worse. DEBKAfile is reporting that most of the weapons tunnels are in Western Gaza, outside the range of Israel's Philadelphi corridor operations. Basing itself on interviews with 'senior IDF officers' DEBKA notes:
Israeli tunnel-hunters led by IDF Bedouin scout units are confined to the 5 km between Philadelphi and Rafah, while the tunnels dug under a 17 km-strip to the West, the former locations of Israeli Mediterranean settlements, operate unhindered. These IDF officers also warn that Palestinian gunrunners have dug so many subterranean shafts – tens if not hundreds – that barely a week after any Israeli offensive, they will be full operational. To destroy them all would necessitate Israel’s permanent military reoccupation of the entire network of smuggling routes.

The general assessment of these Israeli officers is that the Philadelphi operation is another of the government’s half-measures to impress on the public that a tough crackdown is afoot to stem the flow of dangerous weaponry to Palestinian terrorists. The Olmert government cannot let the army go all-out against the accumulating menace without admitting that Israel’s Sept. 2005 evacuation from the Gaza Strip’s Egyptian border was a grave strategic blunder, which the incumbents enthusiastically executed as Ariel Sharon’s top ministers. The defense ministry is in a similar quandary, reluctant to acknowledge that the security plan drawn up by the ministerial political coordinator Brig. Amos Gilead has broken down over Egypt’s failure to police the border.

A similar lack of resolve in Jerusalem is letting the security situation on the Lebanese border deteriorate out of hand.
And Olmert, Peretz and Livni continue to fiddle as the State of Israel burns.

Update 1:45 PM

One of the 'senior officers' with whom DEBKAfile spoke in the paragraphs above may have been former IDF Chief of Southern Command Doron Almog:
Former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog said that a military incursion would not suffice. "There is a need for a permanent IDF presence in the area," he said.

Almog went on to say that the nature of the weapons smuggling was at an advanced stage and that the IDF operation had to lessen the extent of the activity as much as possible.

"In order to meaningfully reduce the smuggling, we cannot rely solely on one operation or even a string of operations - we need a physical presence there," Almog stressed.

The former Southern Command chief said that if the IDF had not withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, the security situation in the region would be vastly superior.

But at least Arik Sharon and his sons didn't go to jail.


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