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Egypt Enables Hamas to Train in Iran By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 19, 2007

This weekend marked thirty years since the late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, flew to Israel to declare his desire for peace with Israel. This occurred only four years after Sadat had launched a full scale war against the Jewish state, and only thirty five years after Sadat had worked for Nazi intelligence during world war II.

Usually the anniversary of Sadat’s visit is a cause for celebration.

This year, however, Israel observes the anniversary of the Sadat visit in an auspicious manner.

Israeli parliamentarian Dr. Yuval Steinitz, a leading member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and chairman of the Knesset Subcommittee on Defense Readiness and Combating Terrorism, has produced evidence that Egypt is the nation that is facilitating large groups of Hamas fighters to train in Iran.

Indeed, the Middle East Newsline has confirmed that Egyptian authorities were enabling soldiers and officers from the new Hamas army in the Gaza Strip to cross into the Sinai Peninsula. From Sinai, the Hamas fighters were given permission by Egypt to fly to Teheran for training by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"A new development that has only begun in the last three months is the organized departure of large groups of operatives from Gaza for military training in Iran,", said Steinitz, in a Nov. 7th letter to the U.S. Senate, in which Steinitz detailed Egypt's help to the Hamas military. Steinitz said that in late September that Egypt allowed 100 Hamas fighters to return from training in Iran, and they were allowed to enter Egypt on their way to the Gaza Strip.

"Egypt permits their transit to Teheran, where they are trained by Iran in a wide array of terrorist activities, such as the production of rockets and road-side bombs, as well as in basic military training," Steinitz said in a letter to Sen. John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota.

The US Congress has been mulling legislation that would slash $200 million of U.S. military aid to Egypt unless the regime of President Hosni Mubarak improves security cooperation with Israel. Egypt, which receives $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, has insisted that it blocks Hamas weapons smuggling and movements along the Sinai-Gaza border.

The Bush administration has opposed the congressional effort against Egypt. Instead, the State Department has sought to increase Egypt's military presence along the Sinai-Gaza border, a move opposed by Israel. So far, at least 750 Egyptian troops patrol the 14-kilometer Sinai-Gaza border.

"Egypt's problem is not the number of soldiers but the lack of motivation," a senior Israeli official told the Middle East NewsLine.

Israeli officials said Egyptian commanders turn a blind eye to massive weapons smuggling that moved through tunnels in the border town of Rafah into the southern Gaza Strip.

Israel has presented evidence of collaboration between Egyptian forces and the Palestinians, which facilitated the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

In October, Steinitz led a delegation of Israeli parliamentarians in discussions with Senate and House members regarding Iran and Egypt where the members of Congress requested details of the expansion of weapons smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.

In his letter, Steinitz said Israeli intelligence has concluded that the Gaza Strip was receiving a huge amount of missiles, rockets and rifles from Egypt. He said 20,000 rifles, 6,000 anti-tank missiles -- mainly rocket-propelled grenade systems -- 100 tons of explosives, and "several dozens of Katyusha rockets, as well as shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles" were flowing into the Gaza Strip annually.

Steinitz said Egypt has ignored the flow of weapons smugglers through the eastern Sinai. He said the 14-kilometer Sinai-Gaza border could be easily sealed.

"All they have to do for this purpose is to erect a number of roadblocks along the very few roads that run from mainland Egypt to the Gaza region, in order to intercept heavily loaded trucks carrying hundreds of rifles and missiles from reaching the border," Steinitz said. "Alternatively, they can declare the border area a closed military zone, with a depth of 2-3 miles into the interior of Sinai, and prevent any movement in it. Since the entire length of the Egyptian-Gaza border is less then nine miles, the area affected will be equivalent in size to a military airbase."

The letter contrasted Egyptian efforts to those of Jordan, with whom Israel signed a formal peace treaty in October, 1994, after 27 years of informal cooperation, following Jordan’s defeat in the 1967 war.

Steinitz asserted that Jordan has blocked most weapons and other smuggling to Islamic insurgents in Judea and Samaria. He said that Jordanian authorities have also smashed smuggling rings throughout the Hashemite kingdom.

After several years of Israeli and American protests, it seems hard to avoid the following conclusion: as long as Egypt is not required to pay a real price for this behavior, weapons and financial aid will continue to flow into the hands of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.

David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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