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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hamas waiting delivery of large arms shipment via Egypt

TEL AVIV — The Hamas regime was said to be arranging for a major weapons shipment from neighboring Egypt.   

Israeli officials said Bedouin smugglers have brought several truckloads of rockets, missiles, explosives, light arms and components through Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. They said the arms supply had been delayed by the Hamas-Israel war, which ended on Jan. 18 after 22 days.

"Hamas is in contact with the smugglers to deliver the weapons as soon as possible," an official said.

Israel and the United States have signed a memorandum of understanding to stop the weapons flow to Hamas, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the U.S. Navy has begun tracking Iranian cargo ships from the Gulf to Egypt.

  • U.S. Navy ordered to release Iran weapons ship — Jan. 26
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    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 Strip."

    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 Sinai.

    [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.]

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