Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Wall Of Swiss Cheese

According to Israeli press reports, the Moslem Brotherhood sent a delegation to Gaza to speak with Hamas leaders in the wake of the breach of the Gaza/Egypt border. The coalition of these two groups has Israeli security officials on edge.

This development dovetails with media reports of a convergence of militant groups, including Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Al-Quada, in the Sinai desert. This meeting follows the holes punched in the border wall by Hamas explosives. Israeli defense officials are reportedly deeply concerned about this conclave of militants.

In a related development, because of the “massive passage of Palestinians in the past few days from the Gaza Strip to Sinai, the IDF spokesman’s office stated in a Jan 26th communiqué, that Israel has closed some roads in the Negev to tourist traffic, as well as some tourist attractions. Some reports speculate that the militant groups are planning to use the porous border to infiltrate suicide bombers into the south of Israel.

Meanwhile Egypt has made a so far unsuccessful effort to reseal the border, sending troops to keep the Gaza residents from spilling out of the immediate area of the hole in the wall and into Egypt proper. Some Gazans have already reached the Sinai. Others are trying to make their way deeper into Egypt.

The Egyptian government is reportedly concerned that Hamas militants will tie up with the Moslem Brotherhood inside Egypt, and along with other extremist organizations, wreck havoc through terrorist attacks aimed at unseating Egyptian president Hosnei Mubarak.

Egypt also ordered all the stores in Al Arish to close. The Gazans have been pouring into nearby Al Arish, just across the Egyptian border, in order to buy everything from goats to cigarettes. The news is filled with photographs of Gazans moving small herds of sheep, wheeling boxes of cigarettes on trollys, or carrying cartons with space heaters, back into Gaza. The price of goods in Al Arish is significantly cheaper than Gaza.

With the removal of Al Arish as a shopping point, Egypt hopes to keep the Gazans within the confines of the Gaza Strip.

This was the fifth day in a row that Gazans flowed across the holes in the border into Egypt.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has asked Egypt for permission to take charge of the Rafiah border crossing, replacing the Egyptians. Egypt took over the border crossing when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip over two years ago. Egypt then gave Israel guarantees that no smuggling would take place from Egypt into Gaza, but the promises were never kept.

Egypt has agreed in principal to the PA request, according to the Haaretz newspaper. Hamas reportedly has also asked to be in charge of the border crossing. Egypt has never recognized the legitimacy of Hamas control over Gaza. The PA president Mohammed Abbas has so far said he refuses to talk with Hamas. Pundits believe that Hamas will ultimately act as the spoiler and prevent the PA from taking over control.

Israeli security sources say that money, guns, and ammunition, have been smuggled back into Gaza through the holes in the fence, effectively canceling any gains Israel made by cutting off the supply of some goods to Gaza. Hamas reportedly had been working for months on a plan to blow up this border fence.

Some Israeli sources say that the holes in the fence proves that Egypt could alleviate the problems of housing, medicine, and food, all in short supply in Gaza, by simply allowing the Gazans to move into Egypt. But Egypt reportedly wants no part of the Gazans, who would bring with them the Hamas style of Islamic fundamentalism, further threatening Mubarak’s regime.

The last time Jerusalem Magazine even mentioned the words Moslem Brotherhood, we received e-mails from that organization reminding us that they were aware of any mention to their cause made in our magazine or on the internet.

Spooky. But that’s life in the Middle East.

Nazareth and Upper Nazareth were declared International cities by the CEO of Cisco, John Chambers. Cisco is donating over $2.5 million to install advanced internet and communications systems providing the two towns with internet services for schools, hospitals, and even churches.

The Galilee is also not immune from terrorist incidents. According to the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser’s office, about20 Israeli Arabs from Jisr A-Zarka and the Wadi Ara region were recently arrested on illegal weapons trafficking. Six of those arrested were indicted today (Sunday), 27.1.08.

Hamza Masri, 24, from Kafr Kara, is accused of trafficking in weapons and munitions with Shahar Hanina, 41, the head of the Fatah backed Tanzim in the West Bank town of Qalkilya. The police allege that Masri acquired a pistol for Hanina in 2005,, as well as a 15-kilogram bag of potassium for use in preparing explosives, Allegedly Masri was fully aware of the intended use of the potassium.

Masri was arrested in 2005 and warned about his ties with Hanina, whom he knew headed the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Kalkilya. According to the indictment upon his release later in 2005, Masri continued his links with Hanina. Masri allegedly purchased tens of thousands of dollars' worth of weapons and munitions for Hanina, including an M-16, a hunting rifle and a laser sight for an M-16.

The rash of terrorist incidents in Israel have continued. Over the weekend another border guard was stabbed at the entrance to Jerusalem near the Shuafat refugee camp. Last week a border guard was stabbed to death near the same area.

Israel is expected to be hit with its first major storm of the season. While the Mekorot water authority has been complaining about the falling level of the water supplies in Israel, the meteorological society predicts heavy rains starting on Tuesday night, turning to snow in the hilly areas on Wednesday.

As a rule, when snow falls in Israel, work in the hilly regions, like Jerusalem, and Safed and the Galilee, stops, and tourists load the children into cars and drive to the area to allow their children a rare chance to see snow.

Mekorot, which had offered a walking tour of the water lines in the Galilee, cancelled their offer due to the impending storms.