vrijdag 23 januari 2009

Gaza smokkeltunnels weer operationeel

Dit was te verwachten, en het is de vraag in hoeverre extra Egyptische grensbewakers daar wat aan kunnen doen. Zoals betoogd in Reken niet op Egypte om wapensmokkel Gaza te stoppen (artikel in Ynet), is de corruptie wijdverbreid en varen de lokale Bedoeinen wel bij de smokkel, en laten ze die zich niet zomaar afpakken. Alleen een grote ondergrondse muur of diepe watergeul zou echt kunnen helpen, en dergelijke plannen circuleren al jaren zonder dat ze worden uitgevoerd. Wie weet heeft Israels militaire campagne Egypte en de internationale gemeenschap van de urgentie van een en ander overtuigd, maar dat valt allemaal nog te bezien.

Gaza smuggling routes operational again

Smuggling into Gaza from Egypt is underway again, only days after the end of the IDF operation against Hamas.

AP Television News footage showed Palestinian smugglers Wednesday filling a fuel truck with petrol that came through a cross-border tunnel from Egypt. The footage also shows workers busy clearing blocked tunnels and bulldozers carrying out other repairs.

One of the stated goals of the IDF offensive was to stop the smuggling through the hundreds of tunnels under the border. The goods coming through have included a steady flow of rockets and other weapons.
Israel has said eighty percent of the smuggling tunnels were destroyed in bombing raids during the IDF's Operation Cast Lead.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian official said on Wednesday that Cairo planned to discuss with Israel its desire to station additional border guards along the Philadelphi Corridor in order to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza.

"We expect to start negotiations about the Egyptian request to put an additional number of border guards (along the Philadelphi Corridor) soon," he said. "The idea is on the table and we will negotiate it."

The official would not say when it would be negotiated or how many additional troops Egypt would request to add. Many other proposals, including the moat proposal and building a barrier around the Egyptian part of Rafah, are currently "being studied" by Egypt, he said.

Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, was scheduled to visit Egypt on Thursday.

Similarly, the London-based newspaper, Al-Hayat on Wednesday quoted Mohammed Bassiouny, chairman of the Egyptian Parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, as saying that there were ongoing Israeli-Egyptian negotiations concerning doubling the number of Egyptian forces at the border.

"We requested another 750 soldiers to monitor this region in addition to the 750 soldiers from the border guard unit that are already there after Egypt signed the protocol with Israel," he said

In contrast to the Egyptian source who talked to the Jerusalem Post, Bassiouny indicated that Egyptian-Israeli negotiations were already taking place in an effort to achieve this goal, according to Al-Hayat.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said his country would not allow foreign naval forces to operate in its territorial waters to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza.

Aboul Gheit spoke to reporters Wednesday as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni headed to Brussels where Israeli officials said she hoped to clinch a deal committing the EU to contribute forces, ships and technology to stop arms smuggling to Hamas.

EU officials said it was too early for that, saying providing humanitarian relief and efforts to secure a lasting cease-fire were their priorities.

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