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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Israel went into Gaza for no reason to preempt arms delivery

Haaretz: The current Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza was sparked by an impending large delivery of antitank rockets, Katyushas and perhaps even shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles that could be a strategic threat to Israeli aircraft, military sources said yesterday.

The delivery was waiting on the Egyptian side of the border for an available tunnel to send the materiel through to Rafah, forcing the army to take action to shut down the tunnels, the sources said.

The IDF reckons that the large amount of high-quality weapons is a gift from Hezbollah and Iran, both of which are devoting much effort to disrupting any possible Israeli withdrawal from Gaza or any attempts at normalization that would enable a diplomatic process. . . .

A key factor in the arms smuggling problem - whose name is hardly mentioned, at least by the army - is Egypt, a sovereign state with powerful and effective security services that, practically speaking, are doing almost nothing to prevent weapons shipments that are upsetting the balance of power and could drag Israel and the Palestinians into intensive, long-lasting combat.

The main reason for Egypt's inaction is the low quality of its border patrols along the border with Gaza. The military appendix to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty prohibits the Egyptians from sending military forces into Sinai, so, say Israelis in the name of the Egyptians, Cairo does not have the right forces in place to halt the smuggling. . . .

The exact opposite of the Egyptian approach can be found in Jordan, which conducts extensive, intensive and aggressive activity against smuggling and infiltrations along the Israeli-Jordanian border. Amman has made its border with Israel a closed military zone, and IDF officers serving in the area say that they have watched as Jordanian soldiers took out terrorist cells.