Abu Marzouk 224 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Defense officials slammed Egypt on Sunday for allowing Hamas No. 2 Moussa Abu Marzouk to enter the Gaza Strip last week following reconciliation talks the terror group held with Fatah in Cairo.
One official told The Jerusalem Post that Abu Marzouk, 58, spent nearly 24 hours in Gaza after entering from Sinai on Thursday night, visiting family and his parents' graves. It was his first visit to the Strip in 30 years. He was born in the Rafah refugee camp.
The officials said that while Egypt denied allowing Abu Marzouk into Gaza, he was in fact allowed to cross into Gaza above ground and not via a tunnel like some Hamas men have done in the past.
"This is a slap in the face," a defense official said. "Abu Marzouk is a senior terrorist and Egypt is helping Hamas by allowing him into Gaza."
The decision to allow Abu Marzouk into Gaza was made without telling Israel and was understood in the Defense Ministry as Egypt's way of expressing its anger with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's rejection last month of Cairo's proposal for a cease-fire with Hamas as well as for using other channels to negotiate a deal with Hamas for the release of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit.
"Egypt is upset at Israel for rejecting the proposal and for using others as mediators," the official said.
Meanwhile Sunday, sources in the IDF Southern Command said the continued Kassam rocket attacks from Gaza undermined the success of Operation Cast Lead in January. The sources called on the government to increase the IDF's freedom of operation and to allow it to initiate operations inside the Gaza Strip.
"Lack of response plays into Hamas's hands," one officer said. "Hamas continues to fire to show that it is alive even though it suffered a heavy blow during the operation. It is trying to show that nothing has changed."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was working together with the IDF to formulate a response to the continued Kassam attacks, officials in the ministry said
Since the end of the Israeli offensive on January 18, more than 100 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel. There have also been a number of attacks along the border, including a roadside bomb that killed a IDF tracker.
According to defense officials, Hamas is continuing to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip at a rapid pace, despite last week's bombing by the IDF of several smuggling tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor.