Israel 'impressed' by Egypt's Gaza efforts

Defense officials: Cairo noticeably increased efforts to curb weapons smuggling from Sinai into Gaza.

egypt border guard 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
egypt border guard 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
Egypt has noticeably increased its efforts in recent weeks to curb the smuggling of weaponry and explosives from Sinai into the Gaza Strip, senior defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post. The IDF has been highly critical of Cairo over the past year, saying it was not doing enough to stop the smuggling under the Philadelphi Corridor, along which Egypt had deployed 750 policemen following Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005. According to a senior defense official, Egypt began significantly increasing its efforts to stop the smuggling following the firing of Grad-model Katyusha missiles into Ashkelon two weeks ago. "The Egyptians finally understood that they could no longer deny that the smuggling was taking place," one official said this week, adding that after the Katyushas hit Ashkelon, Israel sent a strong message to Cairo emphasizing the need for decisive action along the border. The arms smuggling was at the focus of talks Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, held in Cairo earlier this week. According to officials, the talks were aimed at stressing to the Egyptians the importance in cracking down on the weapons smuggling across the Rafah border and into Gaza. A senior Egyptian official told the Post that Cairo was doing its utmost to stop the smuggling. The official also said that US-made tunnel-detection systems would be deployed along the border in the coming weeks. "We have been doing our best and will continue doing our best," the official said. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who is also in charge of the Israeli file in the Egyptian government, is scheduled to visit Israel within a month for talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Gilad. The talks will focus on the current ad hoc cease-fire in Gaza and the weapons smuggling. Israeli officials expressed satisfaction with Egypt's decision to construct a concrete wall along the border with Gaza in place of the old border wall, built by Israel, that was demolished by Hamas in January. The planned wall, which is being built on Egyptian territory about 20 meters from Egyptian homes in Rafah, will be three meters high and lined with outlook posts and various surveillance systems. It will replace the mixed barbed-wire, iron and concrete barrier that was breached in several places by Hamas explosives.