Egyptian security forces discovered half a ton of explosives outside the Sinai town of El-Arish on Sunday, according to the Bethlehem-based Maan news. The explosives were hidden inside an old rocket.
The unique hiding place selected by weapons smugglers for the contraband is what led to its discovery. Local villagers stumbled across the remains of the rocket – left over from a war between Egypt and Israel decades ago – and reported its existence to authorities out of concern that it may still pose a threat.
Upon their arrival, the forces realized that the rocket contained new weapons. Besides the half ton of TNT, the weapons cache also included anti-aircraft shells.
The weapons were packaged in bags, apparently to prepare them for delivery via the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
Many Bedouin residents of the Sinai Peninsula have become involved in smuggling contraband into Gaza, including weapons and terrorists. Smugglers also bring drugs, criminals, and illegal migrants into Israel via the Negev.
Egypt's police have recently cracked down on smuggling activity, blocking several tunnels to Gaza and arresting an estimated more than 1,000 Bedouin. The Egyptian police have also repeatedly opened fire on illegal migrants attempting to enter Israel, killing more than 20 so far in 2010.
Some Bedouin in the Sinai have argued that they have few economic opportunities, and have turned to smuggling to make a living. Tourism to Sinai has dropped in recent years, due largely to fear of terrorism. Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau has issued an extremely high alert for the once-popular Sinai, where there have been threats of Gaza terrorist cells planning to kidnap or murder Israeli citizens.