By Jim Kouri
Weapons are smuggled into Gaza with relative ease by gunrunners who live in the Sinai Peninsula, an Israeli police source tells the Law Enforcement Examiner on Thursday. While Sinai had been relatively quiet during the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, his downfall last year basically spelled trouble for Israelis living close to that border, said the police source.
The Israeli National Police has warned that the scope of weapons smuggling to the Gaza Strip by terrorist organizations is expanding. This troubling information increases the fear of many in Israel that the current uprisings and unrest in Egypt and Syria increase the likelihood that terrorist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists and Hezbollah will increase the volatility within the Gaza Strip.
Due to the recent change in government, Egypt exerts little authority over the Sinai Peninsula, which allows smugglers to operate without any interference, the police source stated.
According to the an Israeli Security Agency report, weapons smuggling to Gaza by the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations has increased since Operation Cast Lead more than two years ago, as those groups have sought “quality” weapons to improve their capabilities to strike the Israeli home front and fight against IDF troops in a future conflict.
The ISA report notes that Iran stands behind the armament effort as that country seeks to increase its influence amongst Palestinians and Palestinian terrorist groups.
The central smuggling route to Gaza is based on the transfer of weapons from Iran to Sudan, from where the weapons are moved into Egypt before being smuggled into Gaza. Because Egypt’s government remains in a state of flux, weapons smugglers are finding it easier to move contraband from Egypt into the Palestinian territories.
According to the ISA, hundreds of rockets (mostly with ranges of 20-40 kilometers), about 1,000 mortar shells, dozens of individual anti-tank missiles and tons of explosives and explosives-making materials have been smuggled via this route since 2010.
In the Sinai Peninsula, a smuggling network exists that is comprised mainly of Bedouins whose main source of income is from smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom, the report stated.
According to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) officials, smugglers in the Sinai Peninsula are operating with little interference since the change of government in Egypt is still uncertain.