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Photo: Reuters
Hamas tunnels
Photo: Reuters
Hamas smuggling thousands of tons of cement into Gaza through Egypt
Extended opening of Rafah border crossing allows Islamist group to smuggle in some 4,000 tons of cement a day to rebuild tunnels.
The Egyptian authorities decided on Tuesday the keep the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai open until Friday, allowing Hamas to smuggle thousands of tons of cement into the Strip, which could be used for the reconstruction of terror tunnels. 

 

 

Egypt has only recently started opening the Rafah border crossing again after closing it during Operation Protective Edge last summer.

 

At first, the terminal was to be opened for three days from Saturday in what was considered a rare occurrence, but Egypt has since extended its opening time by two days until Wednesday and now in two additional days until Friday.

 

In 2013, after the fall of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement which cooperated with Hamas, Egypt's siege of Gaza has been tightened.


Fighters from Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in one of the tunnels (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
Fighters from Hamas' Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in one of the tunnels (Photo: Reuters)

 

Since the beginning of 2015, for example, the Rafah border crossing has only been opened for movement in both directions a total of five days.

 

But recently, amid thawing of ties between Hamas and the administration of Egyptian President Fattah Abed al-Sisi, a Cairo appeals court removed Hamas from the list of terror organizations. Hamas and Egypt have also been working together to fight against their shared enemy - global jihadist organizations in the Sinai Peninsula, who have also been plaguing Gaza.

 

This thawing of ties should concern Israel because now, as a gesture for the month of Ramadan, Egypt decided to open the border crossing this week, which will now remain open until Friday. Israel is hoping the Egyptians would limit this gesture and close the crossing over the weekend.

 

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources reported that since the Rafah crossing has been opened, some 4,000 tons a day of cement has passed through it unsupervised.

 

Terror tunnels being rebuilt.
Terror tunnels being rebuilt.

 

According to these sources, some 10,000 tons of cement have already entered the Gaza Strip by Monday night, and in the next two days, Hamas and Egypt have agreed to allow at least 8,000 tons more into the Strip.

 

For the sake of comparison, over the course of a full month, some 7,000 tons of cement enter the Gaza Strip from Israel under close supervision of a body formed by the IDF, the UN and the Palestinian Authority following the end of Operation Protective Edge.

 

As previously reported, Hamas began rebuilding the attack tunnels that Israel destroyed during Operation Protective Edge only three months after the end of the war last summer.

 

Security officials said Hamas was reconstructing its tunnels by taking over the cement that comes into the Strip from Israel for the reconstruction of homes in Gaza. GOC Southern Command Sami Turgeman confirmed this report in an interview with Ynet's sister-publication Yedioth Ahronoth.

 

Israel is closely monitoring the latest development, but at this stage Israeli officials are holding back criticism of Egypt out of concern it would hurt the delicate ties between Jerusalem and Cairo, which have only recently improved with security cooperation between the two countries.

 

Meanwhile, the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, continues work on the rehabilitation of Gaza, while at the same time there is said to be behind-the-scenes negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a long-term ceasefire, mediated by the Egyptians. It is for this reason that Israel has increased the amount of goods allowed into the Strip on a daily basis.

 

Roi Kais contributed to this report.

 


פרסום ראשון: 06.16.15, 17:58
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