Defense establishment concerned over Egypt-Hamas ties

(Haaretz) The government and defense establishment are becoming increasingly concerned over the closer ties Egypt and the Hamas government are forging in the Gaza Strip and over Egypt's turning a blind eye to continued smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli government and defense delegation to Cairo recently protested Egypt's allowing gunmen to enter the Strip from its territory.

t the beginning of October Egypt allowed some 85 Hamas militants to enter the Gaza Strip from Sinai after a wait of a few months. The group reportedly included experts in manufacturing bombs, rockets and mortars, who had undergone extensive training in Iran and Lebanon.

The Palestinian media later reported that the group, which entered the Strip via Rafah and the Philadelphi Route, had been allowed to return in exchange for turning over an Al-Qaida activist from Sinai, whom Hamas had apprehended in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli ministers who visited Cairo during the past few weeks have also raised Jerusalem's concerns at meetings with senior Egyptian officials.

Egypt claims that Israeli soldiers are taking part in weapons smuggling from its territory. According to Palestinian sources, dozens more gunmen are expected to cross into the Strip from Sinai, including some who were trained in Iran.

Meanwhile Israel continues to gather intelligence on smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, which has greatly increased since Hamas has taken over power. Recently released information indicates that no less than 1,650 RPG rockets and some 6,000 bombs have been smuggled into Gaza since the beginning of the year.

Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet security service, told the cabinet meeting Sunday that an estimated 73 tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza through tunnels since June. Millions of bullets for light weapons and tons of potassium, used to manufacture bombs, have also crossed the Gaza-Sinai border.

Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip have said recently that intensive talks are underway between Hamas and the Egyptian security forces over Hamas' request to allow approximately 100 wounded Palestinians into Egypt to receive medical care. Most of the injured are Hamas members, some of whom were hurt in clashes with Fatah or the Israel Defense Forces.

Hamas Health Minister Bassem Na'im said Monday that Egypt had not yet responsed to the request.

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