On Monday, an attempt to smuggle 17 short-range rockets into Gaza was foiled by Egyptian security forces. The rockets, said to be of the French-made SNEB 68 mm caliber air-launched unguided model, were reportedly confiscated 22 kilometers (13.67 miles) south of el Arish, in the northern Sinai.
The interception occurs just a few days after the Jerusalem Post reported that “Israel and Egypt are carrying on discussions in Cairo that could lead to the further easing of restrictions on the Gaza Strip and prevent a swift rearming of Hamas.”
Following the institution of a ceasefire on Nov. 21 that brought an end to Operation Pillar of Defense, Hamas officials claimed that the agreement did not prevent them from continuing their smuggling efforts. “There is no way to relinquish weapons …. These weapons protected us and there is no way to stop obtaining and manufacturing them,” Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk told the Associated Press.
While Hamas seeks to continue its smuggling through Egypt’s Sinai, the issue has garnered greater attention from US officials. According to a readout released by the White House, during a phone conversation on Nov. 21, President Barack Obama told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the ceasefire agreement provided the US with the opportunity “to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.”
An unnamed US official also told Haaretz in late November: “We will work with Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling … We know that this is a critical issue for preserving stability here, especially given the fact that Iran will not stop trying to transfer weapons to Gaza. We all now understand that we must deal with the smuggling much more effectively than we have up till now.”
In early December, a group of US senators called on Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi to increase efforts to prevent weapons smuggling by Gaza-based terror groups.
Thus far in December, no rockets or mortars fired from Gaza have landed in Israel. On Sunday, a rocket fired from Gaza toward Israel landed in the coastal enclave.