Cairo cracking down on arms smuggling, Israeli minister says

Cairo cracking down on arms smuggling, Israeli minister says

Series of weapons busts since Pillar of Defense are proof of Egypt's new stance, according to Moshe Ya'alon

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Arms seized from a Hezbollah military vessel in 2009 (photo credit: IDF/Flash90)
Arms seized from a Hezbollah military vessel in 2009 (photo credit: IDF/Flash90)

Egypt has been cracking down on arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip in the month since Israel concluded its bombing campaign against Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the coastal territory, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday.

“Since Operation Pillar of Defense, the Egyptians at least appear as if they understand that it’s their responsibility to eliminate smuggling to the Gaza Strip,” he told Army Radio.

Hamas and other terrorist organizations smuggle weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s lawless Sinai Peninsula. Arms from post-Gaddafi Libya, Sudan and Iran enter the Hamas-controlled Strip via tunnels beneath the 15-kilometer Egyptian border with Gaza. In an attempt to curb the passage of arms, Israel instituted a naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave after Hamas seized control of the territory in a violent overthrow of the rival Fatah faction in 2007.

Last month, Hamas officials denied that the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which ended the eight-day war, includes Egyptian guarantees to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Gaza. However, Ya’alon said that “the Egyptians report on the destruction and confiscation of [arms] deliveries, either from Sudan or not.”

Israeli officials have repeatedly charged that Iran provides Gazan terrorist groups with weapons, including rockets, via Sudan.

On Monday, Egyptian military forces in the Sinai intercepted a shipment of 17 short-range missiles en route to the Gaza Strip. The French-made rockets, with a range of three kilometers, were confiscated 22 kilometers south of el-Arish, an Egyptian military spokesman said.

Last month, Egyptian authorities intercepted two arms shipments from Libya bound for the Gaza Strip. One included 185 crates full of arms and ammunition — including bullets, anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, rocket-propelled grenades, landmines and explosives.

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