Israel: Egypt Pushes Hard to Stop Arms Smuggling Into Gaza

Thursday, 18 Jul 2013 04:01 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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Egyptian security forces have substantially stepped up their efforts to close tunnels used to smuggle weapons and other supplies into Hamas-ruled Gaza.
The Egyptian military discovered and sealed eight smuggling tunnels running from the Sinai Peninsula to Gaza Tuesday morning, part of a major operation against jihadist groups operating in the area.

Egypt’s actions — which also included shutting down 23 warehouses used to smuggle fuel to the Hamas regime in Gaza — appeared to be part of a more serious effort by Cairo against Sinai-based militants “than anything since the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty,” The Times of Israel reported.

With that in mind, Israel has granted Cairo permission to bring two more infantry battalions into Gaza, joining the nine already there.

The Egyptian military campaign aims to cripple jihadist forces in central and northwestern Sinai by targeting their strongholds in Jebel Halal — a safe haven known as the “Tora Bora of the Sinai.”

Egypt has cracked down on militant operations in an effort to clear the Philadelphia Corridor — a 9-mile-wide strip of land separating Egyptian- and Palestinian-controlled Rafah, the heartland of the smuggling tunnel industry.

Until three weeks ago, more than 200 tunnels critical to the Hamas regime operated underneath the Gaza-Egypt border. Since then, the smuggling industry has been virtually halted by the Egyptian crackdown, with tunnel activity falling by more than 90 percent.

The Times of Israel reports that with the destruction of the tunnels, “the Egyptian military has uprooted the economic supply line for Sinai’s Islamist terror organizations.”

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