'Mubarak prefers that weapons go to Gaza instead of Cairo'

PA security officials criticize Egyptian authorities for failing to take "action" to halt smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

egypt border guard 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
egypt border guard 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
Alarmed by the apparent rapprochement between Egypt and Hamas, Palestinian Authority security officials in Ramallah on Monday criticized the Egyptian authorities for failing to take "real action" to halt the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. They warned that the weapons were being used by Hamas against both Fatah and Israel. However, a senior Hamas official in Gaza City said Fatah-affiliated clans and groups were responsible for many of the underground tunnels that are being used to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. In a bid to defuse tensions between the PA leadership and Cairo, PA President Mahmoud Abbas last week appointed former PA foreign minister Nabil Sha'ath as his "special envoy" to Egypt. Sha'ath's main mission, PA sources said, will be to persuade the Egyptians not to deal with Hamas unless it relinquished control over the Gaza Strip. In addition, Sha'ath will also urge the Egyptians to step up their efforts to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas. Egypt's recent decision to allow several hundred hajj pilgrims from the Gaza Strip to leave through the closed Rafah border crossing enraged top PA officials in Ramallah, who saw the move as an attempt on the part of Cairo to appease Hamas. The officials complained that the decision was in sharp contrast with Egypt's declared policy of opposing Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last June. Despite Egypt's announcement that it had thwarted several attempts to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip, the officials told The Jerusalem Post, about 50 tons of explosives have made their way into the Gaza Strip over the past few months. The officials expressed deep concern over the involvement of a "large number" of Egyptian soldiers and army officers in the smuggling business. The belief among some officials in Ramallah is that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would rather see the weapons make their way toward the Gaza Strip instead of ending up on the streets of Cairo. Egypt's crackdown on local Muslim terrorist cells has forced some of the terrorists to flee to the Gaza Strip, where they have been welcome to use the training camps established on the ruins of some former settlements. The Egyptians now fear that these terrorists will one day return to Egypt to resume their efforts to overthrow the regime. "The Egyptians already have enough problems, especially with the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida," said one official. "These groups pose a major threat to the regime of President Mubarak." According to the official, al-Qaida has several "sleeping" terrorist cells in Sinai that are waiting for instructions to launch more attacks on government institutions and figures, as well as popular tourist sites. "These terrorist groups have tons of explosives that are capable of turning Sinai into hell," he said. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are very active in Cairo and other major cities in Egypt, is also believed to possess large amounts of explosives. "Both al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood are cooperating with Hamas in the smuggling of weapons and explosives into the Gaza Strip," the security official said. "In addition, some Beduin tribes and Palestinians living in Sinai are also involved. Mubarak should know that the weapons that are being used today against Fatah will be used tomorrow against his own regime."