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Israel says arms flow into Gaza

March 30, 2009|Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Palestinian militants have smuggled nearly 70 tons of explosives and bomb-making materials and other weapons into Gaza since Israel ended an offensive meant to end rocket fire and choke off the arms flow, a senior Israeli defense official said Sunday.

The assessment by the chief of the internal security service, Yuval Diskin, reinforced a growing feeling among Israelis that the government ended the war too soon.

Diskin told the Cabinet that since the three-week military operation ended Jan. 18, Gaza militants have smuggled into the territory 22 tons of explosives, 45 tons of raw materials for producing bombs, dozens of rockets, hundreds of mortar shells and dozens of antitank and antiaircraft missiles.

The weapons are coming in through Gaza's porous border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, despite improved Egyptian interdiction, Diskin said. His remarks were reported by participants in the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.

There was no way to verify his assessment. Using informants and sophisticated technology, Israel has kept close tabs on Gaza since it withdrew its forces from the area in 2005.

Israel launched its air and ground assault in late December in an effort to stop rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from Hamas-ruled Gaza and stanch the stream of arms reaching the territory through underground tunnels from Egypt. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 926 civilians, the Palestinians say. Thirteen Israelis also died.

The attacks from Gaza have dropped off. The military reported Sunday that a total of 185 rockets and mortar rounds were fired since the war ended.

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