Since Israel and Palestinian militants agreed to a ceasefire five days ago, Palestinians have continued smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip from neighboring Egypt, including several pieces yesterday, Israeli and Palestinian security officials told WND.
The truce, which went into effect Sunday, called for a halt of smuggling activity by Palestinian groups in Gaza. It also called for a cessation of rocket attacks launched by Palestinian militants in Gaza aiming at nearby Jewish communities in exchange for Israel withdrawing its ground troops from the Strip and halting military activity in the territory.
In accordance with orders from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Defense Forces removed its troops from Gaza Sunday, but hours later, Palestinian militants fired rockets at Jewish towns. More rockets were fired Monday and Tuesday.
IDF sources told WND the Israeli army Sunday had identified seven militants about to launch rockets into Israel, but due to changed rules of engagement in response to the ceasefire, IDF forces were prohibited from taking out the rocket crews.
Olmert told reporters Israel would exercise "patience and restraint" in the face of Palestinian violations of the ceasefire.
Israeli and Palestinian security sources said Palestinian groups the past few days have continued to smuggle weaponry from Egypt into Gaza. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza last summer, hundreds of tons of weaponry reportedly have been smuggled into the territory. Palestinian sources said about 150 assault rifles and a small number of rocket-propelled grenades made its way into Gaza between Monday and yesterday in spite of the truce.
"It's business as usual," said a Palestinian security official in Gaza. "Nothing out of the ordinary as far as smuggling. Not a massive amount, just the normal routine amount."
Yesterday, IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz told Israel's Knesset that Olmert did not fully consult with the Israeli army before agreeing to the ceasefire with Palestinian militants.
IDF sources and several prominent Knesset members said the ceasefire will damage Israel's security by allowing Palestinian groups to continue smuggling weapons into Gaza. They said the truce would provide downtime for militants to train for attacks against Israel.
Terrorists: Ceasefire means chance to reload
The IDF's military intelligence unit would have recommended against a ceasefire if asked, military sources told WND. Sources in the unit said they were not consulted regarding the ceasefire.
But Olmert said he had faith the ceasefire would work and that it could lead to a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians. He said he would be willing to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for peace talks in the near future.
Earlier this week, in a series of WorldNetDaily exclusive interviews, leaders of the four largest Palestinian terror groups in Gaza said the new ceasefire will be used to smuggle weapons into Gaza; reinforce and train "fighter units"; and produce rockets for a future confrontation with the Jewish state.
"The ceasefire offers a period of calm for our fighters to recover and prepare for our final goal of evacuating Palestine," said Abu Abir, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, a Hamas-allied terror organization in the Gaza Strip responsible for many of the recent rocket attacks against Israeli communities
"We will keep fighting (Israel), but for the moment we will postpone certain parts of the military struggle," said Abu Abir. "We will reinforce very quickly and rush what we are doing to prepare (for attacks against Israel) in Gaza and in the West Bank."
Abu Abdullah, a senior leader of Hamas' so-called "military wing," told WND Hamas agreed to the ceasefire "because we need a period of calm to recuperate. This lull in fighting will not bring us to speak about peace."
Abu Abdullah is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas' declared military wing.
'We keep our right to respond'
He pointed to Hamas' doctrine, which calls for the destruction of Israel and which refuses to recognize the Jewish state.
"The political leadership (of Hamas) will never compromise on these values," the terror leader said.
Abu Abdullah said Hamas has its own political reasons to respect the truce.
"We wish to show Islam as a ruling party is capable of leading the Palestinian people. Since Hamas was elected, we have been through only chaotic periods. We want a period of calm to prove we are not only a revolutionary movement but to show the Palestinian people our rule is without the corruption of (the rival) Fatah (party)."
But Abu Abdullah said the ceasefire would ultimately end in violence.
"All the Palestinian people and all the Muslims will launch a direct confrontation with Israel. This may come soon or it may take some time," Abu Abdullah said.
Abu Luay, a leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, told WND Israel's call for a ceasefire "proves our rocket attacks work. The Zionists know there is now remedy for our rockets."
The Islamic Jihad leader said Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel would resume "at a time of our choosing."
Abu Ahmed, the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, told WND his terror group would respect the ceasefire.
The Brigades, responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks, is the declared military wing of Abbas' Fatah party.
"We will respect the ceasefire as the president (Abbas) has ordered us to do," said Abu Ahmed. "We keep our right to respond to any Israeli aggression. Our group does not give up any of its ideals, which is a withdrawal of the Israelis."
Reprinted by permission of WorldNetDaily