Shin Bet: Egypt turmoil helping arms smuggling to Gaza

May 13, 2011 13:15

New intel report says Egypt's leaders are preoccupied with "stabilizing the new government, and this eases the Sinai smugglers' task."

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Palestinian sits in Egypt-Gaza smuggling tunnel

Gaza smuggling tunnel 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Smugglers of arms into the Gaza Strip are operating almost freely after a change of leadership in Egypt, a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) report released Thursday said.

The report 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.

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

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, which controls the enclave and other smaller terrorist groups, it said.

It 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."

The report said hundreds of rockets with a range of 20-40 kilometres (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.

Outgoing Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, who hands over to his successor on Monday, said in a rare speech earlier this week: "In Egypt it is very hard to assess what will happen in the elections expected in the summer ... it's not a good idea to rest on our laurels."

Even under the rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, a partner of Israel in the Middle East, "Egyptian actions did not significantly reduce the scale of munitions smuggling," the report said. But matters had now worsened.

The Shin Bet report said munitions were transported from Iran to Sudan, across Egypt's Sinai peninsula and through smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip.

Sudan accused Israel of launching an air strike in April near Port Sudan airport that killed two people. Khartoum has close ties with Hamas, but denies giving it direct support.

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