In mid-January, the Navy intercepted and searched an Iranian-owned ship
found to have contained artillery shells, mortars and rockets. The ship was
allowed to proceed to Egypt but not allowed to enter the Suez Canal.
On Jan. 25, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reported the Hamas weapons
buildup to the Cabinet. Barak said he informed Egypt of the weapons supply
in the Sinai and urged authorities to seize the arms.
"There is an accumulation of weapons and equipment meant for Hamas in
Sinai," Barak said. "But Egypt is preventing it from entering the Gaza
Hamas was expected to be also preparing an option to smuggle the weapons
through the Mediterranean Sea. Officials said Hamas, through agents in El
Arish, were working with fishing boat operators willing to transport the
weapons to the Gaza coast.
The Israel Navy has been ordered to increase patrols of the Gaza coast,
officials said. They said the navy has been monitoring the movement of Gaza
fishing boats as well as vessels in neighboring Egyptian territorial waters.
Officials said the United States has also been informed of the Hamas
weapons shipment, believed to be in the El Arish area of northern Sinai. On
Jan. 25, a U.S. military officer, assigned to the embassy in Cairo, toured
the 14-kilometer Sinai-Gaza border.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also been training Egyptian
officers to detect Hamas tunnels that span the divided city of Rafah.
Training with sonar devices has taken place both in the United States and
[On Jan. 27, six days after the military's unilateral withdrawal,
fighting resumed between Hamas and Israel along the eastern border of the
Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources said at least one soldier was killed in a
roadside bombing of an Israel Army patrol. Later, a Palestinian was killed
in an Israeli attack.]