debkafile: Israel buckles under Egyptian-Palestinian demand to let Hamas-led Palestinian pilgrims return to Gaza through unmonitored Rafah crossing
After holding more than 2,000 Hamas-led pilgrims for five days aboard two Red Sea ferries and a detention camp in northern Sinai, Cairo surrendered to Hamas, Wednesday, Jan. 2. Egypt thus reneged on its pledge to Israel to prevent the Hamas pilgrims smuggling into Gaza $150 m war funds and other contraband.
The money was donated by Iranian and Muslim Brotherhood leaders during the Mecca pilgrimage to cover the Hamas government’s deficit and pay for its military operations up until April 2008, including the unrelenting missile and mortar barrage against Israel.
Egypt first went back on its written commitments in the second week of December by opening the Rafah cross to key Hamas operatives bound for the hajj without consulting Israel or the European Union which is under contract to monitor the facility.
Their return was similarly unmonitored. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert has apparently decided not to kick up a fuss for fear of provoking violent Hamas outbreaks that would spoil US president George W. Bush’s visits to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, starting Jan. 8.
Cairo claims Israel was notified of its reversal but made no response, while Jerusalem denies being informed. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who flew to Cairo to press Egypt to give way to Hamas, Tuesday, Jan. 1, claims Israel was informed.
Israeli security sources further report that Egypt took advantage of Israel’s blind eye to get rid of 300 Palestinian terrorists, who were detained in Sinai – some of them al Qaeda and its allied Fatah al Islam activists, who were smuggled in from Lebanon. They entered Gaza under cover of the returning pilgrim group.
Military sources told debkafile that, after this abject surrender to terrorists, they fear the new Egyptian-Israeli deal to eradicate Hamas’ smuggling arms tunnels from Sinai to Gaza will never take off. It was only agreed last week in Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak’s talks in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak.
One Israeli officer asked: What is the point of fighting the smuggling tunnels when Cairo lets war funds and arms sail through the Rafah crossing in broad daylight,