Intelligence official: Hamas rockets can reach Tel Aviv

Anonymous official blames lax Egyptian security for failing to stop weapons smuggling into Gaza; MK Arye Eldad backs assessment.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 14, 2010 21:44
2 minute read.
A Gaza smuggling tunnel.

Gaza smuggling tunnel 311. (photo credit: Ashley Bates)

 
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A senior intelligence official warned Sunday that Hamas in the Gaza Strip have rockets that can travel 80 kilometers (50 miles) — a longer range than previously reported, which would put Tel Aviv within range of its launchers.

The official blamed Egypt, saying it was not doing enough to stem smuggling through a network of tunnels along the relatively short border between its Sinai desert and the Palestinian territory. An Egyptian security official reached for comment maintained that Egypt was combating the smuggling successfully.

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The Israeli intelligence official said that Hamas is "making very big efforts to build up their military capabilities ... building up their rocket capabilities in the Gaza Strip, and all this is happening because of one important thing: the smuggling of weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip."

"Most of the tunnels that are used to smuggle these rockets and explosives and other weapons are in an area of three to four kilometers," or up to 2.5 miles, said the official, who is privy to high-level intelligence information and briefed foreign correspondents on condition that he not be identified.

"We see it in our intelligence and we have photos of this. In many places we can show photos of Egyptian soldiers located less than 20 meters (yards) from the opening of a tunnel, and the tunnel is operating under his eyes, under his control, and nobody is doing anything about it."

"Egypt can stop all this smuggling of weapons within 24 hours if they want to do it," he said. "There are enough Egyptian troops and policemen ... located on this border."

MK Arye Eldad, a member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, who has access to classified material, confirmed the official's assessment.



"Egypt is not a country that large quantities of weapons can enter without the authorities knowing," he told The Associated Press, charging that Egypt allows Hamas to acquire arms in exchange for the Islamic militants leaving Egypt alone.

"They could easily train police to look for the smugglers and they don't," Eldad said.

A senior Egyptian intelligence official said Egyptian security has been performing its duties successfully at the border with Gaza. He said they have intercepted 50 tons of explosives in the past two years and have been praised by Israeli intelligence for their work.

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