'Egypt intercepts Libyan surface-to-air missiles in Sinai'

Weapons smuggling has boosted the black market in Sinai; Egyptian source says Palestinian in Gaza struck a deal with Libyan rebels.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
October 14, 2011 11:12
2 minute read.
Shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles [file]

Shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles (R) 311. (photo credit: Mohamed Azakir / Reuters)

 
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Egypt security officers said they intercepted surface-to-air missiles smuggled from Libya through the Sinai peninsula, the Washington Post reported, a day after Egypt reportedly flew fighter jets over certain areas of Sinai without requisite permission from Israel.

According to the Washington Post report, an Egyptian source said that Palestinians in Gaza had likely struck a deal over the weapons with contacts in Libya.

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Such weapons pose a serious threat to Israel, which regularly patrols the strip with "helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft," the Washington Post reported. It is the second time in a month that Egyptian security forces announced they had intercepted smuggled weapons in Sinai.

Egyptian security sources said that weapons smuggling through Sinai has boosted the black market there.

Weapons smuggling from Libya has increased since the fall of former Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi, who held weapons caches throughout the country.

Smugglers have taken advantage of the situation to increase their business, running weapons from Libya through Egypt and into Sinai, destined for the smuggling tunnels between the peninsula and the Gaza Strip.

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"Weapons are available in Libya as a result of the unstable situation there, and Hamas has exploited it to buy weapons from Libyan smugglers," Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon told foreign journalists in July during a briefing, without elaborating on the kind of munitions involved.

According to The Media Line, no one knows exactly what weapons remain in Libya, or where they are stored though Russia reportedly sold Gaddafi an unknown number of its Igla-S, a man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile popular with militant groups.

Egypt raised eyebrows on Thursday as reports circulated that the Egyptian Air Force was flying fighter jets over areas of Sinai designated by the peace accords with Israel to require permission from Jerusalem.

"Half of the Sinai Peninsula is our territory, and we do not need authorization to increase our power in the region," an Egyptian air force officer told MENA, stressing that the overflights were a response to increased terror activity in Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime.

Israel agreed to allow Egypt to increase the number of troops it deploys in Sinai after a terror attack was carried out from Egyptian territory.

The US has also put pressure on Egypt to beef up security in what has become regarded as a somewhat lawless territory, where terrorists have also blown up the natural gas pipeline running from Egypt to Israel and Jordan six times just since the ousting of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Reuters and the Media Line contributed to this report.

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