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“The main, immediate beneficiaries of what is known as the ‘Arab spring’ are Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip,” Israeli military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai reported on Ynet the other day.
His and similar reports haven’t attracted much attention, and perhaps it’s understandable. There’s been a mass murder in Norway, and, in Israel, raucous public protests over housing prices. But the deterioration in Gaza is surely worthy of note, and, for Israelis, likely to be more significant than the cost of flats.
Ben-Yishai, noting the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since Mubarak’s downfall, says “the group’s influence prompted Egypt’s government to completely halt construction” of an underground metal wall between Egyptian Sinai and Gaza. Built with U.S. assistance, it was supposed to block smuggling tunnels.
Now, though, “the Egyptian regime is making no effort to curb new tunnels and has virtually suspended its battle against smuggling…to the Strip.”
This is bad enough, but in addition, “Egyptian security forces preoccupied with domestic developments [have] completely lost their hold on the Sinai….” That means, along with the enhanced global jihad presence in the peninsula, that
[s]ome 300,000 Bedouins belonging to four or five large tribes are now the Sinai’s true rulers. These tribes’ main income is based on smuggling in general, and on smuggling to Gaza in particular, and they quickly exploited the security vacuum in the peninsula in the wake of the revolution.
Last February when the “Arab spring” was still young, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was in Cairo harshly berating Israel for not reacting enthusiastically. But if Israel wasn’t celebrating the events at that time, it has even less reason to do so now.
“As a result,” says Ben-Yishai, of the abandoned work on the wall and Sinai’s descent into a Wild West,
arms shipments to the Strip have been surging…: everything that has been sent by the Iranians and their emissaries in recent years and was hidden by the Bedouins…has flowed freely into Gaza in the past five months. Meanwhile, new shipments arrived and were transferred to Hamas and Islamic Jihad without delay or a need to hide them.
Hence the terror groups have “doubled their rocket arsenals” so that they now “possess some 10,000 rockets of all types, a similar number to the Hezbollah arsenal in the Second Lebanon War,” including “thousands of mid-range Grad rockets and a few heavy Fajr rockets that…can reach the outskirts of…Tel Aviv.”
The Iranian-supplied merchandise also includes “three times (!) the quantity of industrial explosives compared to the quantity handed over throughout 2010,” along with “large quantities of anti-aircraft weapons…creating a greater threat for Air Force choppers and jets.”
Another Israeli military correspondent, Haaretz’s Amos Harel, cites “senior defense officials” blaming “[t]he revolutions in the Arab world, especially the Egyptian security forces’ diminished control in the Sinai” for allowing the Palestinians to “exponentially increase” the smuggling into Gaza.
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