Libyan Arms Pipeline to Gaza Feared
Israeli defense experts are concerned a 'large quantity' of weapons have flowed from Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi's arsenal to terrorist arms dealers due to a loosening of the embattled dictator's grip on his government.
According to defense experts at least some of these weapons were smuggled to Gaza. It is believed hundreds of 120-122mm Grad missiles, which can reach ranges of 60-70 miles are now in Hamas hands. Such missiles could easily threaten Ber Sheva, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv.
It is also believed shorter-range 60 mm rockets, and stores of guns and ammunition, were smuggled from Libya to Gaza. In addition, Israel now believes surplus Russian anti-tank missiles from Libyan stores may be smuggled to Hamas from Sinai.
Officials believe the new smuggling route, departing from Libya, goes through Egypt into Sinai from which arms are smuggled to Gaza via tunnels. Egyptian military officials claim they are trying to fight the new phenomenon, but many - if not most - convoys still manage to get to the tunnels.
Rafiah An Invitation to Smugglers
Meanwhile, the opening of the Rafiah crossing by Egypt has led to Israeli concerns the crossing will be exploited by terrorists seeking to smuggle weapons into Gaza, along with continued activity through the smuggling tunnels.
Israel has made it clear it holds Egypt directly responsible for everything that passes through the Rafiah Crossing. On Sunday Egypt abruptly closed the crossing after catching two arms smugglers despite its touted 'security arrangements.'
Israeli officials say, despite Egyptian assurances, they do not know what measures Egypt has taken to curtail smuggling from Sinai to Gaza.
Amos Gilad, who heads the political-security staff at the Ministry of Defense, visited Cairo recently. The purpose of the visit was to discuss the issue of the Rafiah crossing, but also on the agenda were issues pertaining to Sinai, the captivity of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit, and other security concerns.