'Hamas smuggling continuing at 'rapid pace''

Vilnai: Cease-fire fragile, could collapse tomorrow; Barak to meet with Suleiman in Alexandria.

While Egyptian efforts to stop weapon smuggling into Gaza have increased in recent weeks, Hamas is still continuing the illegal operations at a rapid pace, senior security officials told The Jerusalem Post Monday, ahead of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Alexandria for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Barak will travel to Alexandria Tuesday morning for a one-day visit during which he will meet with Mubarak, Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman and Egyptian Defense Minister Muhammad Tantawi. While the renewal of negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit will be the focus of the talks, Barak will also urge the Egyptians to take on a more active role in stopping the flow of weapons and explosives from Sinai into Gaza. "There has not been any real drastic change in the smuggling," a senior security official told the Post. "The Egyptians are basically working the same way today as they did before the cease-fire went into effect." Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset three weeks ago that Hamas was using the lull in violence since the cease-fire to smuggle new and advanced weaponry into Gaza which will extend the range of their rockets to encompass Ashdod as well. Barak will also ask the Egyptians to use their influence to persuade Hamas to maintain the cease-fire, which besides the occasional Kassam rocket - two landed in the western Negev on Monday - has been obeyed since it went into effect in late June. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who will accompany Barak to Alexandria, said Monday, that the cease-fire in Gaza was delicate and the IDF was preparing for the possibility that it could collapse at any time. "The cease-fire is fragile and the defense establishment acts as if already tomorrow morning the reality will be completely different," Vilnai said during a tour of several schools in Gaza-belt communities. "We are investing in defenses for the towns and are drilling various scenarios, unfortunately it is our responsibility to prepare for the worst-case scenarios." During his tour of the area, Vilnai visited the Shimei Maoz school where a new concrete structure, which provides protection for up to 70 people caught outside during a Kassam attack, was recently erected. Defense officials said that all of the schools within the Gaza periphery have been provided with a basic level of protection against the Kassam threat.