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The Egyptian Factor in Rafiah

10 October 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Over the past few days the IDF was involved in a brigade level operation in the southern Rafiah area of the Palestinian controlled Gaza Strip along the border with Egypt.  During the past three years dozens of tunnels were built by Palestinian terrorists for purposes of smuggling military contraband underneath the border and Israeli positions.  The situation is becoming increasingly serious as RPG’s, Katuysha rockets, Sagger shoulder launched anti-tank missiles and imported suicide bombers are now arriving along with the usual explosives.  With Palestinians living on both sides of the border the weapons are transported from a dwelling on the Egyptian side to a Palestinian basement. 

Going on the assumption of a ten-meter depth, Israel has destroyed dozens of tunnels over the years.  Recently the army was surprised to find passageways 15 meters and more deep, with deadlier military contents showing up daily.  Hence the operation to catch the terrorists, many whom belong to local extended families and take orders from no one in the Palestinian Authority.  In the latest operation three tunnels were destroyed, several terrorists killed and several apprehended.  It is thought ten tunnels remain, making the operation a very partial success.  With the advent of several civilian casualties UN Sec. General Kofi Anan complained of Israel using “excessive force” a rather ridiculous comment when speaking of two civilians killed and several wounded in a residential area honeycombed with terrorists.  When it comes to terrorism Anan’s judgment is always in doubt as is the UN’s, it appears they prefer the terrorists get their hands on deadlier weapons all the time and have no moral qualms about these armed bands hiding behind civilian skirts.

But most disturbing is Egypt.  Why is the contraband not apprehended in Egyptian Rafiah?  Are they even making an effort to apprehend the smuggler/terrorists?  There are no reports from the Egyptian side as to what is happening.  Israeli journalists and politicians who comment on everything have nothing to say about the most obvious peace accord violation possible.  Is it forbidden to ask the question, “What is Egypt doing to stop this terror infiltration?”  Apparently.

Either the Egyptians are trying and failing (or not trying hard enough) or they see this as a way of putting pressure on Israel by doing nothing and it is “politically incorrect” in light of the 1979 Camp David Accords to say anything.

There may be a complete news blackout concerning this question but that does not alter the fact of Egypt’s responsibility for any weapons smuggled from her territory to Rafiah.   If Cairo is an accomplice then Israel’s Mideast game plan for peace, Bush Road Map or otherwise, needs a fundamental overhaul.