Gaza blockade in reverse: Hamas fortifies Egyptian border against Libyan infiltrators
While complaining to the world about the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, four days ago, Hamas began building fortifications to block the territory's western boundary with Egyptian Sinai, debkafile's military sources report. Hamas is said to be anxious to ward off the spillover of post-revolutionary chaos from Egypt and Sinai into the Gaza Strip and curtail the new influx of fighters and smugglers from Libya and Sinai Bedouin affiliated with al Qaeda. These groups have gone into the smuggling tunnel business on their own account and are causing mayhem.
These infiltrators are being housed by the "Army of Islam" (Al Qaeda affiliates) in the Gaza Strip and provided with shelter and food in the refugee camps around Gaza City. Hamas blames them for the resurgence of rocket fire into Israel in violation of the informal ceasefire agreed with Israel four months ago.
Saturday, July 9, three Qassam missiles were fired at Ashkelon and the Eshkol district, exploding on vacant ground.
Our sources report that a work force, building materials and equipment are working overtime to throw up a fortified earthworks barrier 10-12 meters high and 14 kilometers long, running from the Rafah crossing up to the Mediterranean 50 meters inside Gaza territory. The side facing Egypt is densely cloaked with barbed wire to stop climbers. Earthmoving equipment is flattening its top surface, presumably for watchtowers.
By Monday, July 11, the fortifications were finished in the border town of Rafah and work was proceeding further west in the area of Hamas's arms smuggling tunnels.
A bizarre situation has developed: while Hamas continues its smuggling operations underground, illicitly importing munitions, rockets and explosives for terrorist use, on the surface, it is putting in place a mechanism for blockading its own border.
In June, the Palestinian fundamentalists were dismayed to discover that they had company in burrowing underground tunnels for contraband into the Gaza Strip: an assortment of ex-Libyan army fighters and Libyan rebels, on the one hand, and Sinai Bedouin gangs who sought to end their dependence on Hamas tunnels and had struck out on their own.
The Libyans had discovered the Middle East smuggling racket of goods and arms to be a lot more profitable than fighting each other. They have turned rebel-held eastern provinces of Libya into a large wholesale depot for equipment and merchandise smuggled from the Far East and Europe. The goods are loaded at Benghazi and Tobruk aboard ships which are unloaded in Egypt – where law and order has collapsed – and transported to Sinai and onto the Gaza Strip.
debkafile reports from sources familiar with the situation in the Gaza Strip report around a thousand shiny new Kia cars with Libyan number plates currently stocked in the Gaza Strip awaiting buyers in Arab countries.
Hamas encouraged the traffic at first, because the smuggled cars provided a conduit for anti-tank and anti-air missiles. But then, they when they saw the cars arriving with former Libyan fighters eager to line up with the Army of Islam, they decided to cut their losses and put a stop to it.
Hamas now finds the mafia shaping up between the Libyan intruders in flight from the war racking their country and al-Qaeda affiliates in Gaza and Sinai as a threat to its rule in the Gaza Strip as well as potentially sabotaging its unofficial truce with the Israeli Defense Forces.