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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Egypt is arresting officers who take bribes from arms smugglers, and is rotating its troops in the Sinai so they don't get too close to the local population, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), told the cabinet Sunday, explaining some of the steps Egypt has taken recently to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza.
Diskin said that in general, the Egyptians were proving more effective in fighting the arms smuggling, but that while the heads of the arms-smuggling rings were finding it more difficult to get merchandise and arms into Gaza, their motivation to do so remained high.
Diskin, who said there has been a significant drop in rocket attacks from Gaza since the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in January, added that Hamas was still continuing to try and rebuild its military strength, both by manufacturing longer-range rockets and smuggling these rockets into Gaza through the tunnels.
In addition to longer-range rockets, Hamas is trying to procure greater anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities, according to Diskin.
Diskin added that while there were indeed fewer rockets fired from Gaza onto the western Negev, Hamas continued to plant explosives along the border fence separating the Strip from Israel.
Hamas, the Shin Bet chief concluded, had an interest in preserving quiet inside Gaza, and for that reason was taking some action against other terrorist organizations firing on Israel.
He said that Hamas' political wing was taking a more moderate position, wanting to score public relations points, while the military branch - supported by the group's leadership in Damascus - was keen on rearming and putting more pressure on Israel to free Palestinian prisoners.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the cabinet after Diskin's briefing that "there is not a complete cease-fire [between Israel and Hamas], and what exists is very fragile."
He added that Hamas continued smuggling arms into the Strip.
"We are continuously asked to make things easier for the population in Gaza, to let in materials and equipment, but we have security interests there," he said, adding that among those interests was the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit.
"We need to find the balance between making things easier for the population and making it harder for Hamas to gain more weapons," he said.