Reward for Smuggling: Arms Transferred Directly to Abu Mazen

As a result of Hamas's unceasing arms-smuggling into Gaza, and with Israeli govt's full cooperation, Egypt gave 2,000 rifles to PA Fatah chief Abu Mazen. Likud: "The guns will be used against us."

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 11:47

Israel allowed the transfer as part of the gestures and restriction-easings Prime Minister Olmet promised Abu Mazen earlier this week.

Opposition Knesset Members fear the guns will ultimately be used against Israel. "Israeli soldiers and citizens will be killed by these weapons," said MK Yuval Shteinitz, a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"We have not yet seen Abu Mazen determinedly fighting terrorism," Shteinitz said, "and the chances are greater that these weapons will be used against us."

The weapons - 2,000 Kalachnikovs, 20,000 magazines and two million bullets - are meant to strengthen the Fatah organization in its struggle with Hamas. Headed for Abu Mazen's Presidential Guard, the shipment had been waiting in Egypt for six months. Israel had refused to allow it to reach Gaza - until yesterday, when IDF Military Police accompanied the Egyptian shipment to a Gaza crossing.

Most ironically, Israel's consent to transfer the weapons stems from its inability to control the arms-smuggling through the Philadelphi Route alongside Rafah between southern Gaza and Egypt. Fatah leaders had reportedly complained that they were under-armed because Hamas controls most of the arms-smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under Rafah.

One observer noted, "It's like a policeman saying, 'No one can have a gun, because you might shoot me - but because one group has obtained guns, I'll let the rest of you have some as well.'"

"If it helps strengthen Abu Mazen, I'm in favor," said Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, one of the more hawkish Labor Party ministers.



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