During the debate over whether the Libyan intervention was a model for military action, Libyan weapons were being smuggled into Egypt’s black market and into Gaza. Keep in mind that an elaborate system of tunnels has been constructed between the Sinai and Gaza. It was reported recently that an estimated 20,000 surface-to-air missiles have vanished from known Libyan inventory.
Many of the weapons in question are of the tactical kind. These weapons are not easily tracked and increases Hamas terrorists’ threats to Israeli security operations. Particularly important are the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles; rocket-propelled anti-armor grenades, and mobile anti-aircraft guns. The Egyptian military can vouch that gun smuggling into Gaza is underway through recent seizures:
Helped by highly sophisticated contraband weapons smuggled out of Libya, Iran and Hizballah are getting the Palestinian Hamas equipped for another round of hostilities with Israel. debkafile’s military sources report that Sunday, Sept. 25, Egyptian security forces, acting on information from a Western intelligence source, homed in near Ismailia on a large half-empty buried cache of advanced SA-24 anti-air infrared missiles (a version of the US Stinger) stored there en route from Libya to Gaza.
The information came too late to block delivery; most of the crates were found empty of their contents of missiles and other military equipment which must already be on their way to Sinai or Gaza. Some of the empty containers were found to have contained Russian-made MDM-3 sea mines, of the type Muammar Qaddafi scattered around Libyan ports in May to keep NATO vessels at bay.
With the unrest in Cairo and Egypt’s military turned inward, once the guns make into the Sinai they are as good as gone. The desert region has been dubbed no man’s land and a black hole in terms of government administration. Israeli-Egyptian relations have gone cold since Mubarak’s ousting, and the lawlessness in the Sinai, along with the new source of weaponry, raises concerns over Israel’s course of action. The back channel contacts have also seemed to deteriorate. The Israeli ambassador was evacuated when the Israeli embassy was attacked by angry protesters and has not returned. The Egyptian military also seems to be following the lead of the political situation that has swept through Egypt.
Israel has been well aware of gun smuggling into Gaza in the past. Most notably, they have tracked an increase since being forced by the international community to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. Iran was the chief exporter by way of sea and air. Syria has been an accomplice, and now Israel must worry about Turkey joining. Obviously, since the guns must make several stops and take numerous routes, Israel was somewhat able to estimate the amount of guns and even take steps to prevent them from entering Gaza by way of the Red Sea or the Mediterranean. However, this closer route between Gaza and the Sinai gives Hamas nearly a seamless supply route for weaponry that could greatly challenge Israel’s security. With an added advantage against Israeli air power and armor, Hamas may find new hostilities are more suitable to their interests than in the past.