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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Israel drafting plans for moat to thwart arms smuggling from Egypt

TEL AVIV Israel's military has been developing plans for halting the flow of weapons and insurgents from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.

One proposal is to construct a huge moat along the 14-kilometer Egypt-Gaza border. Officials said the moat would be built in stages, with the first portion to be located in the area of the arms smuggling tunnels along the divided city of Rafah.

Officials said the military believes that at least 30 arms smuggling tunnels connect Sinai to the Gaza Strip. They said Egypt, despite the deployment of 750 police commandos, has not made a dent in the smuggling.

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Officials said the General Staff has been working with the Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry to draft technical measures designed to halt or reduce arms smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula, Middle East Newsline reported. They said some of the measures would revive proposals examined in 2004, a year prior to the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip.

In 2004, the Defense Ministry sought to promote the construction of a moat. The ministry issued a tender for digging a four-kilometer-long canal, with a width of 100 meters and depth of 25 meters.

At the time, Egypt opposed such a project. But the Foreign Ministry has renewed discussions with the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"Any arrangement will have to provide an answer to the problem of the arms buildup," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said.

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