Navy official: Gaza shore ‘one big smuggling tunnel’


Officer charged with defending maritime boundary warns extending Palestinian fishing zone will endanger Israeli assets
Palestinian fishermen sail to fish as others pull their fishnet at the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Adel Hana)

As the Gaza Strip’s authorized fishing zone grows, so shall the danger posed to Israeli gas processing platforms off the coast of Ashkelon as well as merchant ships docking in Ashdod, an Israeli Naval official tasked with safeguarding Israel’s maritime boundary with Gaza told Israel Radio on Saturday.

The expansion of the Gaza fishing zone from its current six-mile limit was one of Hamas’s key demands during the recent Gaza conflict. Israel said it would consider such a move as part of the ceasefire agreement with the terror group, though no actual change has been made so far.

While the officer, identified only as Lt. Col. ‘L,’ noted that most Gaza fishermen were not involved in terrorist activity, he stressed that terror operatives were continually using those fishermen’s freedoms to smuggle weapons and plan attacks.

‘L’ went so far as to call Gaza’s shore “one big tunnel,” in reference to Hamas’s numerous smuggling and attack tunnels dug under the Egyptian and Israeli borders. Dozens of such tunnels were destroyed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge during the summer. The officer said that after the Egyptians destroyed many of the smuggling tunnels dug between Sinai and Gaza in 2013-2014, attempts had intensified to smuggle weaponry via the sea.

Meanwhile Palestinian sources said the Israeli Navy had fired at Palestinian fishing boats Friday night but did not damage them. Israel Radio reported that dozens of such incidents have occurred since the Gaza conflict, with the Navy firing at boats that move beyond the fishing zone. Nizar Ayash, head of Gaza’s fishing syndicate, has said that six miles are not enough to satisfy Gaza’s needs and warned that fishermen would increasingly challenge that boundary if it is not widened.

In a dramatic but undeclared change of direction in its policy toward the Gaza Strip, Israel is significantly easing restrictions on the movement of commodities and people in and out of the Hamas-controlled territory following Operation Protective Edge.

For the first time since the Islamist movement took control of the coastal enclave in the summer of 2007, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the IDF branch responsible for civil Palestinian affairs, is allowing Gazan agriculturists and fishermen to market their produce in the West Bank. In another first, Israel is allowing thousands of tons of building materials to enter Gaza for reconstruction projects to be managed by private contractors. Previously, only the UN was allowed to import such materials.

Viewed together, the new measures are a significant reversal of Israel’s “separation” policy enacted in June 2007 to detach Gaza — viewed as a hotbed of terror and extremism — from the relatively calm West Bank by largely preventing the movement of people and commodities from Gaza to the West Bank via Israel.

Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.

Read more: Navy official: Gaza shore ‘one big smuggling tunnel’ | The Times of Israel
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October 18, 2014 | 3 Comments »

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3 Comments / 3 Comments

  1. Not to worry. Israel will develop an underwater scanner that will blow the hell out of …. the water. The PA/Hamas will quickly get back into their RAT tunnels. They don’t know the meaning of HELL.

  2. Of course our leaders cannot reveal all the details of their plans and deals. But based on past performance I have hard time trusting their wisdom.