Jerusalem – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak flew to Egypt yesterday to present incriminating footage of Egyptian security forces helping Hamas smuggle items into the Gaza Strip.
These films have video footage filmed from Navy ships and from Air Force drones, which systematically collect information on the Hamas smuggling route from Sinai to the Gaza Strip.
One of the films, shot from a boat, shows a group of Palestinians receiving a large shipment near the Rafah beach from other people who arrived from Sinai, and next to them, members of the Egyptian Border Police who observe from a short distance and do not intervene.
In another film, photographed about two months ago, the Egyptian police can be seen near dozens of smugglers who came from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, after breaking through a passage in the Rafah area. This time too, the Egyptian police can be seen “guarding” the activity, certainly not stopping it. Older information that the security establishment has shows Palestinian police took bribes from Hamas activists who left the Gaza Strip for Sinai, moved south toward Mount Harif, and from there entered the Negev.
It was also learned on Tuesday that the security establishment tried to act directly with Cairo in an attempt to stop the cooperation of the Egyptian policemen. To this end, a high-ranking security official was sent a few weeks ago to Cairo on a secret visit, during which he showed the top Egyptian officials the embarrassing material and demanded that they stop the smuggling and comply with the agreements with Israel that were signed upon the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. However, it appears that the Egyptians were not impressed.
Cairo Moves To The Offensive: ‘Don’t Blame Us’
For the first time since news of the tunnel crisis between Israel and Egypt broke out last year, Egypt is moving from the defensive to the offensive. On Tuesday, Cairo accused Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of lack of judgment in the wake of her statement from two days ago that Egypt’s performance on the border is “terrible.”
In addition to that, in a conversation with Ma’ariv a high-ranking Egyptian official charged that the figures Israel published about the scope of the smuggling from Sinai are inflated. “It would be better for the Israeli minister to focus on negotiation efforts with the Palestinians instead of speaking recklessly about matters that she does not understand sufficiently,” said Husam Zaki, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, Egyptians accuse Israel of attempting to blame them for the failure in dealing with the problem of the Gaza tunnels.
An Egyptian official said that the statistics that Israel published about the scope of arms smuggling in the Gaza Strip are far from reality.
Egyptian officials believe that Israel is trying to cover up its failure in Israeli public opinion and therefore putting the blame on others.
They hint that a large part of the arms reached Gaza by sea, which is under the responsibility of the Navy.
The Egyptian anger is simmering because the American Congress has approved a foreign aid bill which holds back $100 million out of a $1.3 billion allocation to Egypt. The funds would be released when Egypt takes documented steps to actively root out and destroy the tunnel smuggling network between Egypt and Gaza.
Bereaved Families, Parents Of Kidnapped Soldiers At Odds
A painful disagreement has surfaced in Israel.
On the one hand, the parents of the kidnapped soldiers, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who are demanding their release in exchange for terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands. On the other, bereaved parents who are horrified by the thought that the murderers of their children will go free.
On Tuesday, the disagreement over the price to be paid in exchange for the kidnapped soldiers turned into a public and sharp struggle. “There is no other alternative. The price also has to be prisoners with blood on their hands,” said Zvi Shalit, Gilad’s grandfather.
“The redemption of prisoners takes precedence over everything. The option of direct dialogue with Hamas should not be ruled out, just as in the past they talked with the PLO, which was considered a crime. We need to talk with the kidnappers,” Mr. Shalit said.
A year and a half after his grandson was taken captive, his grandfather revealed some of his feelings. “We feel that this is atrocious. I have no other word. The conflicting reports about progress in the talks for his release are driving us crazy.”
During a rally for the kidnapped soldiers that took place at Jezreel Valley College, the mother of kidnapped soldier Ehud Goldwasser also spoke about the possibility of releasing terrorists with blood on their hands. “Now, when we hope that we are close to an arrangement that will bring back Gilad Shalit, several politicians are trying to undermine the trend toward deciding to relax the definition of the terrorists who can be released. How would they respond if their own child had been kidnapped, and not mine? It is very easy to make political gains at someone else’s expense,” Miki Goldwasser said.
In front of hundreds of students, Ms. Goldwasser said, “I want, and call as loudly as I can: bring back the innocent soldiers who were taken prisoner. They are being put to indescribable suffering by people who are cruel beyond imagination. Who knows what they are going through every moment of their day for a year and a half already?”
The families whose children were killed in terror attacks protested the statements. “The release of the kidnapped soldiers must be done in another way, not at the expense of our children and the children of those who will be killed in the future as a result of the release of hundreds of murderers and terrorists,” said Moshe Har-Melech, Tzion Souieri, Benzi Ben-Shoham, Shmuel Landau, Penina Malik and Moshe Kenan, who lost family members in terror attacks. “The blood of our sons and daughters cries out to us from the earth day and night. Any talk about releasing their murderers reopens our wounds,” the families wrote in an open letter that was published on Tuesday.
The bereaved families end their letter as follows: “Any deal with terrorist elements is a deal of death, and any surrender will lead to future kidnappings. We call for the use of other alternatives to free the three young men and not to search for the easy way out here at home.”
©The Bulletin 2007