Strategic Implications for Israel of the Gaza-Egypt Border Opening

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and Dan Diker, JCPA

* Some had hoped that pressuring Hamas in Gaza via sanctions, while helping to create a stable and prosperous Palestinian society in the West Bank under Mahmoud Abbas, would trigger support for Abbas’ leadership in Gaza. However, Hamas, via Gaza’s new-found access to Egyptian materials, goods, and services, can now ease Gaza’s depressed condition and diminish the differences between Gaza and the more prosperous West Bank.

* For the first time in the history of the modern Middle East, Hamas – the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ideological cousin of al-Qaeda – has gained full control over contiguous territory and population, and has now effectively become a state government without real opponents.

* In sharp contrast to Fatah’s yet unfulfilled promises, the Palestinian public sees Hamas’ dramatic opening of the Gaza-Egypt border as the latest in a series of successful actions. Others include Hamas’ surprise January 2006 electoral victory over Fatah, its kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the sustained rocketing of southern Israel, and Hamas’ expulsion of Fatah forces from Gaza and the establishment of its control over the government there in June 2007.

* Terrorist operatives and groups such as al-Qaeda, that have already used Egyptian Sinai as a rear base, can now reach Gaza without interference. Gaza has transformed from its prior status as part of the Palestinian Authority to its new role as a mini-state that is now an integral part of the Arab world. Hamas will now be able to obtain weapons, ammunition, explosives, and training more freely via Egyptian Sinai. Since the border opening, weapons have flowed unimpeded into Gaza, enabling the transfer of higher-grade weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles.

* Al-Qaeda operatives already infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen back in 2006. After the breach of the Egyptian-Gaza border, many Palestinians trained in Syria and Iran easily returned to Gaza. With the open flow of Palestinians into Sinai, there are also increased prospects for attacks against Israeli targets by terrorists infiltrating across Israel’s long border with Sinai. If Egypt is forced to take responsibility for Gaza, Israel will have to more carefully weigh its military responses to Hamas terror actions originating from the Strip. MORE

February 5, 2008 | Comments »

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