Halutz: Terrorists smuggling tons of TNT from Sinai

While Israel spends billions to fortify its border with the Gaza Strip, terrorist groups have found a bypass route into Israel through Sinai, said IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday. Instead of risking the high-tech security checkpoints that Israel has designed between Gaza and Israel, terror groups are establishing routes through the largely unfenced Negev and Sinai deserts. Although the IDF has increased patrols in the area, terrorists have already smuggled 6.5 tons of TNT, 15 rockets, and dozens of RPGs, said Halutz. He also said he would not recommend that the IDF return to Gaza. "Even if we [the IDF] sit in a plaza in the middle of Gaza City, there is no certainty that they won't continue to fire Kassams at Israel," Halutz told the committee. Halutz said that imposing economic sanctions on the Hamas-led government was more likely to increase its popular support than bring about its downfall. He also said the recent clashes between Fatah and Hamas gunmen were unlikely to reach the level of civil war. Halutz said the IDF was also increasing its efforts to prevent terrorist infiltration from the West Bank. Religious MKs on the committee requested that Halutz consider easing restrictions on checkpoints near the West Bank, as thousands of Jewish settlers use them daily. Regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, Halutz repeated his previous assessment that according to intelligence estimates, Iran would possess a nuclear weapon by 2008-2010 at the earliest.