Egypt denies not cracking down on Gaza smuggling

CAIRO- A top security official said on Monday Egypt has cracked down on tunnels to Gaza and intercepted explosives destined for the enclave, a day after an Israeli official criticised its anti-smuggling efforts.
The Gaza Strip relies on a network of tunnels underneath its border with Egypt, which has been key in maintaining a blockade on Gaza first imposed in June 2006 after Palestinian militants there kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

The blockade was tightened a year later when the Islamist Hamas seized power in the tiny but densely populated territory.
The Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said security forces have closed down dozens of tunnels this year but found none used for smuggling weapons.
He said security services have captured large quantities of explosives that were extracted from ordnance left over from Egypt's wars with Israel, before the two countries signed a peace deal in 1979.
Other weapons were smuggled into Gaza by sea, he said.
"We set up dozens of checkpoints inside Rafah and along the roads leading to it to prevent smuggling operations. The weapons that reach Gaza come by the sea, which is controlled by the Israeli navy," he said.
A senior Israeli intelligence official said on Sunday that Egypt was not doing enough to stop weapons smuggling to Gaza.
"Egypt has lost control of what is happening," he said.
However, the Israeli official also praised Egypt for apprehending Islamic militants believed to be operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt said on Friday it had arrested at least 20 Islamists suspected of extremist ideology in the Sinai, a day after Israel warned its citizens of a possible kidnap plot there.
Security services in Egypt have accused militants arrested over the past two years of receiving training inside Gaza to mount attacks in the Sinai targeting tourists and the Suez Canal.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas are at their lowest point ever, partly because of an underground barrier Egypt is building along its border with Gaza aimed at stopping the smugglers.
Earlier this year, Cairo accused Hamas gunmen of shooting dead one of its border guards.
Hamas, which believes Israel was illegitimately created on Palestinian land, fought a devastating war with the Jewish state in December 2008 and January 2009.

Tuesday, November 16th 2010

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