Egyptians and Palestinians Make a Mockery of Their Accords with Israel

The sights and scenes in Gaza Strip immediately after the Israeli troop pullback Monday, Sept 12, filled Israel’s defense leaders with dread. Total loss of control was manifested by the Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian border police, who stood by as tens of thousands of Palestinians indulged in a wild orgy of destruction, burning, looting and hurling themselves back and forth across the Gazan-Egyptian border unchecked.
Long months of painstaking negotiations with Egypt, the Palestinians and the United States for coordination on post-evacuation security were trampled underfoot. IDF sources estimated Tuesday night, Sept 13, that in two days, about 20,000 Palestinians had flocked into Egyptian Sinai from the Gaza Strip – most intending to stay there – and 3,000 Palestinians had crossed into the Gaza Strip.
Not a single Palestinian security officer was visible on the horizon. Egyptian border police, deployed under a binding protocol with Israel to block the border to unauthorized traffic, obligingly helped infiltrators clamber over the wall marking the frontier.
Many Palestinians were no doubt spontaneously celebrating a sense of freedom. But, according to debkafile‘s military sources, this spontaneity was exploited if not generated by the Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorist groups. With the help of Egyptian troops, they used the tide of people to cover the illegal transfer from northern Sinai into the Gaza Strip of hundreds of terrorists with sidearms, Qassam missiles, long-range rockets, and anti-tank and ground-air missiles.
Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz made desperate telephone calls. He started by berating Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian civil affairs ministers, with whom he spent hour after hour working on the coordinated stages of the Israeli withdrawal and security arrangements on the Gaza-Israel border thereafter.
When his protest went unheeded – no Palestinian Authority police stepped in to stop the rampage – Mofaz phoned the departing US ambassador Dan Kurtzer, who s retiring in a few days. It was out of the question to call secretary of state Condoleezza Rice or the head of the US national security council, Stephen Hadley, who were instrumental in setting up the broken accords. No one wanted to spoil Prime minister Ariel Sharon’s triumphal UN General Assembly appearance.
Later in the afternoon, Mofaz put in a call to the Egyptian intelligence minister Omar Suleiman, another key player in getting the accords in place. debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that Suleiman explained that his border police were unable to deploy along the Philadelphi border route in keeping with Cairo’s commitment, because their guard posts were not ready. He also presented the Israeli minister with an unwelcome fait accompli: Egypt had decided to give the Palestinians another 96 hours of freedom to cross the open border – up until Saturday Sept 17.
Mofaz was struck dumb. The entire edifice of agreements including a new military protocol between Israel and Egypt had been swept away overnight – not just by the Palestinians, but by Cairo. He realized he had no guarantee that the guard posts would be standing by Saturday or that no more excuses would be offered for reneging on the protocol provisions.
The next chapter unfolded Tuesday evening, when the Egyptians and the Palestinians came to their own arrangement for 2,400 Palestinian security police to be deployed along the Gaza-Egyptian border. These “crack troops” are the phantom army which Palestinian Authority when under pressure hauls out “to fight terrorists” and “impose law and order.” This “army” becomes invisible when such emergencies arise or else it melts into the general fray.
But the Egyptians are less worried by the arms traffic under their noses than the smuggling operation, which Israel has warned them the Palestinians are preparing behind their backs: to land terrorists and weapons from the sea along the shore south of the former Rafiah Yam up to Deir el Balakh’s Date Beach. The Egyptians accordingly asked the Palestinian Authority to deploy two police battalions to guard the coast against smugglers’ landings.
Apart from the defense minister’s futile phone calls, Israel has not interfered in the threatening situation developing hour by hour since its troops withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Nor has it drawn a line on the unraveling of all the agreements which made the withdrawal possible. Jerusalem has posted no ultimatum to the Palestinian Authority and Egypt to stand by their obligation to shut the border forthwith, or brought IDF armored forces into position for retaking control of the Philadelphi border enclave until the Egyptians keep their side of the bargain.
The utter destruction wrought by Palestinian mobs and the total failure of the Palestinian Authority to save from vandals and looters – even the greenhouses and industrial center that would have provided 26,000 jobs for a needy populace, will make well-intentioned outside bodies think twice before offering development and reconstruction assistance.
Bitter words were heard in Washington and Jerusalem Tuesday night against the deputation of Egyptian generals and officers, months in the Gaza Strip for the express task of controlling Palestinian excesses and boosting the forces of law and order.
They too never lifted a finger to deliver on the many promises that issued from Jerusalem and Cairo of effective Egyptian security control of the Gaza Strip during and after Israel’s withdrawal.
In the barbaric climate that has descended on the Gaza Strip, Abu Mazen’s vague pledge to soon start disarming armed groups is more hollow than ever.

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