Egypt seals Gaza border, but not before arms get through

Monday, February 04, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

Witnesses cited by the international media said on Sunday that Egyptian forces had sealed the last of the breaches in their nation's 7-mile border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Hamas forces reportedly cooperated with the resealing of the border after striking a deal with Cairo that would leave the Palestinian terror group largely in control of the official border crossing in the divided town of Rafah.

Israel, the US and the Palestinian Authority had all pressed Egypt to not give Hamas any control over the critical border, which has been used by Palestinian terrorists to smuggle vast quantities of arms into Gaza.

Speaking at Sunday's cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin said the past week had seen the most serious smuggling, after the demolition of the border wall by Hamas militants permitted terrorists to transfer arms by vehicle instead of relying on narrow underground tunnels.

Diskin said the Palestinians had exploited the situation on the Gaza border to bring quote "high quality" weaponry into Gaza. Diskin also warned that terrorist operatives trained in Syria, Iran and Egypt had also taken the opportunity to reenter Gaza.

For days following the initial breach of the border, US and Israeli officials demanded Egypt forcibly prevent hundreds of thousands of Gazans from freely flowing across the international line. But Cairo initially sided with Hamas, parroting the Palestinian line that a limited Israeli embargo on the entry of non-essential goods to Gaza had left the Palestinians no other option.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the Gaza situation had highlighted the need for Israel to finally construct a proper border fence along its 130-mile border with Egypt.

An untold number of Palestinians slipped deep into the Egyptian Sinai, and Israeli officials fear many may try to infiltrate the Jewish state along its long, unfenced border with Egypt.

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