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Letter to J (the Jewish newspaper of Northern California): Egypt to guard Gaza’s borders?

September 20, 2005

You may have read or heard that Israel has solicited Egyptian troops to guard the Gaza-Egypt border against smugglers bringing arms into the Gaza Strip. The idea of abandoning Gaza looked to be a terrible mistake from the outset, but making the Egyptians guardians of the border would seem to compound it.

My following letter was published by J. (the Jewish Bulletin for Northern Califoirnia). We hope that will agree with our views.

Immediately following this letter, we reprint an article from the Jerusalem Post that confirms these concerns.

Dear Editor:

Ariel Sharon, who famously declared that "responsible statesmen do not give away pieces of their country to appease their adversaries and as negotiating chips," has now decided and successfully accomplished to make Gaza, part of the Jewish homeland, judenrein.

It is very sad and Israel will have to reap the bitter harvest of this dreadful deed. It will be understood by Israel's enemies, and by the world at large, as a sign of weakness. In view of its implacable enemies, Israel cannot afford to show any weakness.

But what really boggles the mind is that Israel has invited the Egyptians to send a contingent of 750 soldiers to police the frontier of the Sinai with Gaza. Their mission is to prevent smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip. Is the Israeli government composed of the fools of Chelm or their descendants? If that is not inviting the fox to guard the chicken coop, what is?

Best regards,

Gerardo Joffe
President, FLAME

'Vast amount of arms' enter Gaza

by Margot Dudkevitch, The Jerusalem Post
September 15, 2005

Israel's demands to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority that they seal off the Rafah border crossing and restore law and order appeared to have gone unheeded on Wednesday, as thousands of Palestinians continued to cross freely into Egypt, despite assurances by both sides that they would close the crossing. Ever since the IDF pulled out of Gaza, the border crossing has turned into a free passage, with Egyptian border policemen doing nothing to prevent Palestinians from traveling back and forth. Egypt and the Palestinians agreed to close the border after nightfall on Wednesday and announced that Gazans would be required to undergo passport control before entering Egypt. "We know that in the past two days vast amounts of ammunition, weapons and wanted men entered Gaza.

We fear that some of the weapons will make their way to the West Bank," a senior security official told The Jerusalem Post. While Israel has no imminent plans to take action, the security establishment is monitoring the situation at the southern border very closely, the official said. "Right now we are biding our time, the coming days will tell," he said. Unwilling to comment on reports that the Egyptians and PA intend to close the border at midnight on Wednesday, the official said the situation would have severe repercussions when Israel reopens the Erez border crossing to Palestinians in the future. "We have know way of knowing who has entered Gaza in recent days, even someone like Osama Bin Laden could have shaved off his beard and entered," the official said.

Because of the situation, when Israel eventually reopens the Erez border crossing in the future, Palestinians would have to undergo stringent security checks he said. Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Assem Ibrahim assured Israel that the situation on the border would be addressed and law and order restored. "You are talking about people who have been in a prison for 38 years - haven't you seen the television reports showing people crying as they are united with their mothers," he said in an interview on Israel Radio.

When asked about the weapons-smuggling tunnels, Ibrahim said, "you can be sure that people do not need to smuggle weapons into Gaza, there are enough there already." However, Egyptian security officials reported finding weapons in a tunnel they uncovered late Tuesday night south of the Rafah crossing. According to the reports, the tunnel stretched between the Egyptian side of the border to the Palestinian controlled area. An Egyptian official said that three rocket propelled grenades launchers, 39 machine guns and 2,800 rocket grenades were found inside the tunnel. The Palestinian media quoted an unnamed arms dealer who said that the free passage to and from Egypt had caused the price of weapons in the Gaza Strip to drop.

The dealer said the price of an AK-47 assault rifle has dropped from $1,980 to about $1,300. Bullets for the weapon are now being sold for as little as NIS 3 when previously they cost up to NIS 18. According to the dealer most of the arms were purchased from Beduin and farmers on the Egyptian side of the border and from there smuggled into Gaza. On Wednesday morning, Hamas blew a hole in the concrete barrier on the Philadelphi corridor separating Palestinian Rafah from the Egyptian side, allowing hundreds to cross into Egypt unchecked. Hamas activists threatened that any attempts to seal the hole would not succeed, as the movement would blow holes elsewhere in the barrier to facilitate unhampered entry into Egypt.

Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy said he was not surprised by the situation and advised Israel to be patient. It was in the mutual interest of both Egypt and the PA to stabilize the situation, he said. Meanwhile, Border Police on Wednesday night arrested seven Palestinians from Gaza and two Israeli Bedouin at Kadesh Barnea near Nitzana. The nine were being questioned by security officials.

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