Diskin: Removing blockade dangerous

Shin Bet Chief: There is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

311_Diskin (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin warned Tuesday of the danger of giving in to world demands to lift the naval blockade of Gaza, dismissing international checks of ships’ cargoes as a possible solution to the problem.
Speaking to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee a day before a key security cabinet meeting to discuss the future of the Gaza blockade, Diskin said there was room to further relax the import of products to the Gaza Strip through land crossings.
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“I find the opening of the naval blockade to be a very dangerous development,” Diskin warned MKs during the closed-door session.
“The possibility of Gaza building a port would be an enormous hole [in security], despite the possibility that international checks of cargo could be carried out before the ships reach Gaza,” he added, ruling out suggestions aired in recent days that Gaza-bound boats be inspected by international observers at a neutral port, such as Cyprus, before entering Israeli waters.
World attention has been focused on Israel’s blockade of the coastal region following the attempt by the Turkish-sponsored international flotilla to bring products, including wheelchairs and building materials, into Gaza two weeks ago.
But in the face of international claims, Diskin emphasized that “there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.”
“I have no problems with an easing-up regarding the transfer of goods into Gaza,” said Diskin, adding that the truly dangerous items were smuggled into the coastal area through tunnels in the southern border with Egypt. Among those items, he warned, were a number of rockets capable of reaching the Tel Aviv area.
'5,000 Rockets in the Gaza Strip'
According to the security chief, Hamas and Islamic Jihad together have an arsenal of approximately 5,000 rockets in the Gaza Strip, of which some 80 percent are held by Hamas.
Abu Ahmad, spokesman for the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, would not confirm or deny Diskin’s estimate, but added, “The attempt to link this information to lifting the siege on Gaza reflects the enemy’s bad intentions. Israel is cooking up excuses and pretexts to maintain the unjust siege.”
The majority of the estimated 5,000 projectiles are homemade rockets with ranges of up to 40 km., but the “imports,” Diskin said, came through tunnels connecting to the Sinai – and the quality of these tunnels, he added, was “improving.”
“Smuggling in Sinai is an integral part of daily life there,” Diskin emphasized, “and it is a central source of income for the local Beduin.”
He added that “Sinai is a focal point for al-Qaida ‘refugees’ fleeing Iraq through Jordan. All kinds of terror associates come to Sinai from the Gaza Strip, as do representatives of Hizbullah. Sinai is a large area that is difficult to control through the entry permits that are issued.”