Egypt wants to prevent arms smuggling through tunnels
An Israeli official told The Daily Star Egypt that “no decision has been made regarding Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement yesterday that the military would launch an operation in the Gaza Strip.
The comments come two days after nearly 5,000 Egyptian security police were deployed in the vicinity of the Egypt-Gaza border to “secure the tunnels allegedly used to smuggle weapons to and from the Palestinian territories once and for all, according to Mohammed Kadry Saeed, military expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
The deployment comes amid speculation raised by an Israeli daily that Israel was planning to use “smart bombs to destroy the tunnels along the border.
The border strip, known as the Philadelphi Corridor, is an 11 km. stretch that is only 100 m. wide.
“The army is preparing for an even more extensive operation in the Gaza Strip, Olmert was quoted as saying, according to AFP.
Olmert’s comments were made during a meeting with his parliament s defense and foreign affairs committee and surfaced yesterday in a report that quoted an Israeli MP.
Meanwhile, Hassan Abu Taleb, head of the International Unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told The Daily Star Egypt, “Egypt has the right to send the 5,000-strong police force to protect its side of the border, and this is in accordance with the peace treaty.
When asked whether this could lead to tension on the border, he responded, “It is true that there is tension on the border, but it is not tension between Egypt vis-à-vis Israel or vice-versa. Egypt recognizes the tunnel problems because it affects Egypt as well as Israel.
Abu Taleb also said that Israel is making a grave mistake by considering military operations in Gaza because operations have proven to end in failure, as seen in the recent war in Lebanon.
“It is only through diplomatic means that this matter can be resolved, he said.
If Israel insists on military action, Abu Taleb added, it will only make it more difficult for the Knesset to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas four months ago.
Abu Taleb did present an alternative hypothesis to Olmert s statements, describing it as a possible negotiating ploy.
“These statements seem to imply a push and pull in the negotiations, he said, referring to a possible prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinians.
“It could be a negotiating tactic to bargain over the number of prisoners to be released for example.
“The current Egyptian redeployment is an effort to secure the tunnels . and prove to Israel that the smuggling going on in the border tunnels is not occurring with its tacit approval, Saeed told The Daily Star Egypt.
“Egypt wants to show that it is active and not turning a blind eye, he added.