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GAZA STRIP = LEBANON II

Shabak Security Chief Diskin: 'Palestinian Arms Smuggling Is Turning Gaza Strip Into Lebanon II'

'Unless We Reopen Negotiations On Rafah & Philadelfi Passage, Gaza Strip Will Also Turn Into Strategic Threat Within Three to Five Years'

'After IDF Pullout, Northern Samaria Is Now Islamic Jihad Land'

Shabak Chief Diskin

Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin issued a dire warning about the Gaza Strip when he presented his biannual report to the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee. In response, Knesset Member Natan Sharansky of Likud said Prime Minister Olmert and his government cannot say they have not been warned.

If Israel does not act against Palestinian arms smuggling, the Gaza Strip will pose the same threat as Hezbollah in south Lebanon. That was the warning from Shabak Security Chief Yuval Diskin.

Today, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip have hundreds of percent more weapons than they had before the Israeli withdrawal last August. Diskin warned that unless stopped it would will pose a strategic threat within three to five years. This is some of what has been smuggled in from Sinai since the evacuation:

  • 15,000 light weapons
  • 4,000,000 bullets
  • 15 tons of standardized TNT
  • 35 anti- tank launchers
  • 400 rocket-propelled grenades
  • 10 15 Katyusha rockets of 122ml.

The Palestinians are also copying the Hezbollah example of building bunkers and anti- tank defenses. Their goal is to create a balance of deterrents by longer range Qassam and Katyusha rockets. They are also building tunnels in populated areas to hide explosives and personnel.

Other tunnels are built under the former Philadelfi axis between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Some twenty tunnels were involved. The terrorists were bribing Egyptian policemen and smuggling everything except tanks and aircraft into the Gaza Strip. The Rafa passage, manned by foreign observers was also wide open for terrorists to come and go as they pleased, although Israel had provided lists of barred suspects. The Shabak knows that Hamas bomb experts trained in Iran have entered Gaza from Sinai. In short, nothing was being done to block this massive arms smuggling. Before the withdrawal, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Jerusalem to pressure Israel into accepting the Rafah arrangement. In another month it is up for review and Diskin declared: We must reopen it for negotiation, otherwise Israel will face a strategic threat similar to south Lebanon.

West Bank: Last August, Israel also withdrew from four settlements in northern Samaria. There was no permanent IDF presence there now and Diskin said: Northern Samaria has became Islamic Jihad land. At the time, he had warned this would be the case. Nonetheless, the IDF did carry out patrols in the area and it was still possible to carry out targeted killings of terrorist leaders although it took more time.

What impact has the war had on the Palestinians? Diskin said it cuts two ways. On one hand, Israel was perceived as going crazy and acting disproportionately over the kidnapping of two soldiers. But the IDF was also viewed as hesitant and avoiding face-to-face contact with the heroic Hezbollah. Therefore, those crazy Israelis who are frustrated over the war might wreak their vengeance on the Palestinians. The Shabak now expects Hezbollah to step up its activity mainly in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. This could also include greater funding and arms smuggling. During the war, Shabak intercepted six suicide bombers already on the way to Israel. In Jerusalem, a Border Guard also caught a suicide bomber inside the capital. Another thirty-six potential suicide-bombing plots were uncovered.

Shabak security chief Yuval Diskin pulled no punches in presenting the potential danger from the Gaza Strip. His briefing comes against the backdrop of the public criticism in Israel over former governments failing to face up to the Hezbollah threat in south Lebanon. The question now is whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will now reopen the Gaza passage agreement with Secretary Rice who pressured the then defense minister Shaul Mofaz into accepting it.

David Essing

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