The quality of weapons being smuggled into Gaza has declined significantly since January’s assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet on Sunday.

Mabhouh, who was reportedly responsible for smuggling Iranian arms into the Gaza Strip, was killed in a Dubai hotel room in January.

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Although Israel was widely blamed for the assassination, Jerusalem never claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile on Sunday, IDF troops foiled a supposed terrorist attack along the security fence in northern Gaza. The soldiers spotted a number of suspicious figures trying to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the force deployed along the border. The soldiers shot the suspects, killing three.

Earlier on Sunday, the IDF detected a number of people who had also approached the security fence in the area, and fired several warning shots.

Despite the IDF assertion that the suspects were planning to fire an RPG at the soldiers, Palestinians claimed that the dead men were shepherds, with two identified as 91-yearold Ibrahim Abu Said and his grandson Ismail Abu Odeh, 21.

Diskin warned that the country is on the brink of a period of increased terrorism as Hamas and others try to torpedo the recently relaunched diplomatic process.

The gradual but continuous decline in terrorism in the West Bank over the past three years, and an accompanying decline in terrorism originating from Gaza over the last 18 months, is about to end, Diskin said, in the first security briefing he has given the full cabinet in more than a year.

Based on the recent attacks, as well as concrete intelligence information, Diskin said the threat of terrorism will increase in lockstep with the progress in the peace talks with the Palestinians.

Diskin said that since Hamas did not have an organized command center in Judea and Samaria, it was largely working through Hamas operatives inside Israeli jails, who were activating prisoners who recently returned to the West Bank.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said this was one of the major concerns facing Israel in regard to a possible major prisoner swap for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. The Shin Bet’s estimation, Netanyahu said, was that if the security prisoners were released back to the West Bank, they would carry out attacks both in Judea and Samaria and within the Green Line.

Diskin said it was almost certain that Hamas was responsible for recent rocket attacks from Sinai on Eilat and Aqaba, and that those responsible for the attacks most likely had exited Gaza through the smuggling tunnels into Sinai. While Hamas was interested in curbing attacks from Gaza, it had no such compunction regarding attacks originating from Sinai, he said.

The clashes along the Gaza border on Sunday came after a weekend marked by intensifying rocket fire into Israel. On Thursday, a Kassam rocket and a mortar shell hit in Israel, and in response the air force bombed a number of targets throughout the Strip.

Those targets included Hamas offices in Gaza City, a smuggling tunnel on the Sinai border and what was described as a “terror center” in the northern Strip.

On Friday, a number of Kassam rockets again struck Israel without causing damage. Two rockets hit a field near Sderot again on Sunday morning.

On Monday, three explosions were heard near a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, which borders Gaza, a local authority spokeswoman said.

No injuries or damage were reported.

The Color Red rocket-alert system was not activated. It was not immediately clear whether the explosions were caused by mortar shells or rockets.

Defense officials said the IDF was likely to continue its policy of responding to rocket attacks with pinpointed air strikes but would not raise the response to the level of a large ground operation inside Gaza.

“Now, with the peace talks starting, it is unlikely that the response will escalate,” one defense official said.

The officials said, however, that if the violence escalated, Israel would be forced to adjust its military response accordingly.

Diskin also said that there has been an increase in the number of tunnels being dug between Sinai and Gaza, and that these tunnels were not only meant to smuggle goods and weapons, but were also “attack tunnels” designed for kidnappings and attacks inside Israel.

He also said that, with the financial support and other assistance from Iran, Islamic Jihad was gaining strength inside the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu said this underlined one of Israel’s key problems: When it gives up territory, that territory is taken over by Iranian allies, who then smuggle in weapons and use the territory as a base to attack Israel.

Regarding the Palestinian Authority security apparatus, Diskin said it was demonstrating a great deal of “motivation” and “determination” in preventing attacks, including arresting hundreds of Hamas activists.



Diskin said that the PA security apparatus was perhaps at the strongest point it has been in 16 years, thanks primarily to assistance coming from the US and the international community.

There was no longer any evidence of the “revolving door” policy that existed in the West Bank in the past, where the PA would report about arrests of Hamas activists, only to soon release, Diskin said.

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.