JERUSALEM - Libya has become a new source of smuggled weaponry for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Thursday.

"Weapons are available in Libya as a result of the unstable situation there, and Hamas has exploited it to buy weapons from Libyan smugglers," the former IDF chief of staff told foreign journalists in a briefing, without elaborating on the kind of munitions involved.

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With eastern Libya largely held by rebels who rose up against Muammar Gaddafi in February, arms were being brought across the border, through neighboring Egypt, to the Hamas-ruled territory, Yaalon added.

Hamas officials had no immediate comment on Ya'alon's charge.

In May, a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) report said smugglers of arms into Gaza are operating almost freely after a change of leadership in Egypt.

The Shin Bet said with Egypt's new leaders preoccupied with stabilizing their country, "governance in Sinai is not high and this allows smugglers to operate almost without hindrance.

"Today the Egyptian regime's attention is focused on stabilizing the new government and this eases the Sinai smugglers' task," the report explained.

The Beduin people of the Sinai, for whom smuggling is a major source of income, were mostly involved in getting weapons into Gaza to supply Hamas, it continued.


The Shin Bet also reaffirmed the belief that Iran, in seeking to strengthen its influence in the region, was supplying Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist with "choice military-grade weaponry."

Hundreds of rockets with a range of 20-40 kilometers (12-25 miles), at least 1,000 mortar bombs, some anti-tank missiles and tons of high explosives and raw material to make high explosives had entered Gaza since the start of 2010, according to the domestic intelligence agency.

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