Egypt acts (finally) to block Hamas arms smuggling

Egypt has deployed 600 commandos in civilian garb in the northern Sinai town of El Arish and the divided Gaza town of Rafah for its first serious effort ever to cork up the hundreds of Hamas’ arms smuggling mega-tunnels into the Gaza Strip, debkafile‘s military sources reveal.
Israel’s three-week Gaza operation crippled the underground system before it ended in January. But because the Egyptian end was wide open, as soon as Israeli troops quit the territory, Hamas diggers were back at work. They managed to rearm with tens of tons of explosives, dozens of rockets, hundreds of mortar shells and dozens of anti-tank and anti-tank missiles.
Now, for the first time, chances are good for severing the subterranean lifeline feeding the Hamas arsenal which blasted southern Israel for eight years, a high-ranking Israeli security officer commented. And that includes the smuggling tunnels running under the Philadelphi border corridor. “If Cairo had done this three years ago,” he said, “Iran might never have been able to move in on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip or spread its wings across into Egypt territory.
Cairo has taken four steps to dry up the arms flow to Hamas, according to our sources:
1. The sector between El Arish and Rafah has been declared an off-limits military zone. Vehicles going in and out are searched by Egyptian commandos, whether trucks, carts, camels or donkeys. This leaves the tunnels snaking into Gaza with no arms to smuggle.
2. Roadblocks are posted 20 kilometers apart on Sinai road connections to the Suez Canal and Red Sea coasts. Unfettered road travel across the rugged Sinai desert is a thing of the past.
3. Egyptian intelligence officers summoned the tunnel owners of the El Arish and Rafah clans and warned them sternly that gun-running is over. Anyone caught carrying on this illicit trade now faces years in an Egyptian jail with hard labor.
Egypt has not completely cut off the Sinai clans’ livelihood. The hundreds of tunnels, which carried goods ranging from grenades to cigarettes, may still carry foodstuffs and consumer merchandise.
4. Sinai Bedouin chiefs were handed hefty cash grants to stop the arms smugglers from transiting their territories. This incentive worked in Iraq for bringing Sunni clan chiefs of the Anbar province and central Iraq over to the American side in the war on al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency.

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