Israeli intelligence has blamed Egypt for allowing Hamas to continue to smuggle in weapons, including missiles that can reach Tel Aviv. An unnamed senior officer briefed foreign news agencies on Sunday and voiced unusual public criticism of Cairo.
Egypt immediately denied the accusations, saying that Israel knows “it is doing its best” to cut off the supply of arms and terrorists from Egypt to Gaza, which usually takes place through underground tunnels.
The officer also took the opportunity to reveal that advanced missiles in the hands of Hamas terrorists can easily reach metropolitan Tel Aviv. After Israel’s Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign two years ago, then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni accepted American guarantees that smuggling would not resume.
Hamas is “making very big efforts to build up their military capabilities,” the officer said, “building up their rocket capabilities in the Gaza Strip – and all this is happening because of one important thing: the smuggling of weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip.”
Egyptian Soldier Stands by Smuggling Tunnel
He said that “Egypt has lost control of what is happening,” adding that Israel has aerial photos of Egyptian soldiers stationed less than 75 feet from the opening of a smuggling tunnel that operates “under his eyes, under his control. Nobody is doing anything about it. Egypt can stop all this smuggling of weapons within 24 hours if they want to do it.”
Egypt occasionally blows up several tunnels and then cites these efforts as proof it is working against smugglers. Officials in Cairo said they have discovered nearly 700 smuggling tunnels this year and have prevented 50 tons of explosives from entering Gaza.
The Israeli official also cited bribery as rampant at or near the border with Gaza. However, he added that Egypt has been cooperating when there is intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent.
Nevertheless, Cairo last week accused Israel of issuing false warnings of planned terrorist attacks in the Sinai in order to ruin the local tourist industry. The intelligence officer who spoke with foreign news agencies said that Egypt made a “wave of arrests” following a recent warning, but that it is not known if they have found two terrorists who entered the Sinai from Gaza to carry out an attack on Israeli civilians.