Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Retaking the Philadelphi route

In Haaretz, the paper's military correspondent Amos Harel and and Arab affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff discuss the current state of Israel's Gaza operation, drawing attention to two particular features: one, the possibility that Hamas may be playing for time in the expectation that President Obama may offer a more conciliatory approach, and two, the real threat to Israel's security posed by the smuggling of arms along the so-called "Philadelphi route" - Israel's 7-mile-long southern border. Excerpt:

Israel's concern that the smuggling of arms will continue along the route running parallel to Sinai centers on the possibility that in the future, missiles capable of striking Tel Aviv will be brought in by Hamas.

If the gap in southern Gaza is not blocked, Iran will be able to, indirectly, threaten central Israel in months, if not weeks.

Only at this stage is the sophistication and extent of the smuggling mechanism in place being understood in Israel, and the role played in that smuggling by officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Since the success of the naval commandos in intercepting the Karin A, a ship carrying weapons to the Palestinians in January 2002, the Iranians have changed their methods. Instead of smuggling large quantities, the arms are brought in small amounts through an intricate network of mediators.

But these small shipments included Katyusha rockets, and there is a possibility that Fajr missiles will follow - reaching targets 70 kilometers from Gaza.

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