Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said Thursday that Egypt is not doing enough to curb arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the United States, Dichter said Egypt's failure to seal its border with Gaza is bolstering Hamas and weakening President Mahmoud Abbas' US-backed Fatah faction.
"There is no doubt that Egypt is not doing enough," Dichter was quoted as saying by the Washington Post, claiming that "tens of tons" of arms and explosives are being smuggled into the tiny coastal territory.
Egypt agreed to monitor its border with the Gaza Strip following Israel's withdrawal from there in August 2005. But Israeli officials have been alarmed by Hamas' increasingly tight grip on Gaza, a development they blame on the Islamic group's unchecked arms smuggling from Egypt.
"I am sure that if Egypt decides to block this flow of smuggling, they can do it, 100 percent," he said.
Dichter said he did not believe the Egyptian government is directly involved in arms smuggling, but refused to speculate why Egypt is not doing enough to halt the flow of arms to Hamas.
'Matter of determination'"It is very easy to be done. It is a matter of determination," he said. "There is no doubt it strengthens the terrorist organization."
Egyptian Ambassador to Washington Nabil Fahmy refuted Dichter's remarks as untrue, saying most arms in the Gaza Strip are smuggled by sea or bought on Israel's black market, the Washington Post reported.
"They should control their own market, frankly," Fahmy told the Post, noting that Israel failed to "prevent smuggling 100 percent" when it occupied the Gaza Strip.
Fahmy said that under the Camp David peace accord with Israel, his country was allowed to deploy only a small number of troops in the Sinai desert.
Egypt increased its troops in Sinai to 750 in an agreement signed with Israel following its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005.
"There is a good-faith effort to try to control the smuggling," Fahmy said.