Hamas continues to show no sign on compromise regarding its positions against Israel and is interested in maintaining the calm to build up its strength – particularly by smuggling weapons into Gaza from Egypt, said Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin at a special press briefing on Monday.
He also warned that the Sinai region – where last week's suicide bomber passed
through on his way to Eilat - has become a large-scale "weapons cache," maintaining a steady flow of supplies from different countries around the world. Diskin said the region now constitutes an "underbelly" to Israel's security in the long run.
He added that terror organizations continue to develop a massive tunnel infrastructure in Gaza, smuggling in an estimated 28 tons of standard-grade explosives into the Strip in 2006, this compared with an estimated 6 tons in 2005.
The weaponry shopping list for 2006 included 14,000 assault rifles (9,300 in 2005), some 5 million armament accessories (2 million in 2005), 150 RPG rockets, 65 grenade launchers, ten upgraded anti-tank missiles and ten anti-aircraft missiles
"Terror organizations are digging tunnels from Gaza towards Israel with the intention of carrying out attacks against IDF forces in the communities adjacent to the border," said Diskin. "At the moment there are at least 10 tunnels being dug, in varying stages of progress."
Diskin also noted the use terror groups make of Egypt, saying that 43 terrorists were arrested after trying to enter Israel unlawfully, having left Gaza for Egypt with the intention of entering Israel through Egypt.
He admitted that Israel's security forces failed to come up with a solution for the incessant Qassam attacks on the south. "An operation in Gaza will not bring the Qassam attacks to an end," he said.
A documented 1,726 rockets fell inside Israel in 2006, compared to 401 in 2005.
The Shin Bet chief stated that 279 potential suicide bombers were arrested in the West Bank over the course of 2006, an almost 80 percent increase from last year's 154 potential bombers. The figures show that motivation towards carrying out terror attacks is still high, even if terror activity in the region appears to have gradually calmed.
Diskin said the Shin Bet had had failed in determining kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit's whereabouts, but added that information obtained by the Shin Bet indicates that he is “alive, well and in good condition."
Diskin also touched the subject of kidnappings in the West Bank.
"The working premise is that when a kidnapping like this takes place, they will prefer to kill their captive, bury his body and then negotiate. This is the soft underbelly of Israel and therefore it is extremely important that soldiers and civilians be aware of the situation,” he said.
Of the last war in Lebanon and
its repercussions in the territories Diskin said that the war had damaged Israel's deterrent capabilities.
There is a recorded 150 percent increase in the number of terror groups being guided by Hizbullah over the course of the first half of 2006, he said.