(photo credit: AP)
Defense officials expressed support on Monday for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to transfer weapons to a military force loyal to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, claiming that the move is necessary to counter a massive military force Hamas is building in the Gaza Strip.
During his meeting with Abbas on Sunday in Jerusalem, Olmert in principle accepted a detailed security plan - drawn up by US general Keith Dayton - which calls for the deployment of Abbas's Presidential Guard along the Philadelphi Corridor in Gaza to prevent arms smuggling and in northern Gaza to stop Kassam rocket attacks.
The decision to beef up Abbas's force with new weapons and ammunition came several days after Fatah announced plans to unite all of its splinter factions into a single 5,000-strong military force that will be capable of countering Hamas.
While Israel has in principle agreed to allow for the transfer of new arms from Egypt to Gaza, the IDF and the Shin Bet did not accept a request by the Palestinians to receive bulletproof vests, new military-grade jeeps, night-vision goggles and advanced communication devices.
"It is in Israel's interest to beef up Fatah and create a force that could potentially counter Hamas," a defense official explained. "Fatah's weapons are old and they lack ammunition needed for basic training."