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Egypt can do more to stop the smuggling of weapons from the Sinai Peninsula into the Gaza Strip, senior defense officials said Thursday, amid reports that Egypt was building an underground barrier in an effort to stop the flow of arms.
According to reports that have reached the IDF, Egypt is currently in the initial stages of building an underground metal wall that will reach a depth of 16 meters, as part of an effort to cut off smuggling tunnels used by Hamas to bring advanced weaponry into Gaza.
Egypt has already built a wall along the 14-kilometer Philadelphi Corridor, which separates Gaza from the Sinai.
Israeli officials said they doubted the wall would be effective, since most of the smuggling tunnels were dug to depths reaching over 30 m. and sometimes even 50 m.
"We still expect the Egyptians to do more," one Defense Ministry official said Thursday.
Hamas is believed to have several hundred tunnels along the border.
Some of the Egyptian forces deployed along the border often turn a blind eye to smuggling activity that takes place on the Egyptian side. In some cases, there have been reports of Egyptian border policemen that have received bribes from smugglers.
Egypt currently has 750 policemen deployed along the border, an amount permitted within the Camp David Accords, which declared the area a demilitarized zone. Israel has repeatedly denied Egyptian requests to increase the number of policemen.
While Egypt has slightly increased its counter-smuggling activity along the Philadelphi Corridor, Israel believes Hamas is continuing to bring weapons into Gaza without difficulty.
A Hamas border guard and a Gaza official said the Egyptians had been digging for the past 17 days in the area where the borders of Egypt, Israel and Gaza meet. They said they dug during the day and put metal into the ground at night.
Egyptian security officials confirmed a project was under way to curb smuggling.
Today, Hamas is believed to have a few thousand rockets, including several hundred with a range of 40 km. and several dozen with a range of between 60 km. and 80 km. Intelligence assessments are that Hamas smuggled the missiles into the Gaza Strip through tunnels, possibly in several components.
Iran already supplies Hamas with 122-mm. Katyusha rockets that are smuggled into Gaza in several pieces and then assembled by Hamas engineers.