Tel Aviv: Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip have rockets that can travel 80 kilometres (50 miles) – a longer range than previously reported, which would put the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv within range of its launchers, a senior Israeli intelligence official has warned.
The official blamed Egypt, saying it was not doing enough to stem smuggling through a network of tunnels along the relatively short border between its Sinai desert and the Palestinian territory. An Egyptian security official reached for comment maintained that Egypt was combating the smuggling successfully.
The Israeli intelligence official said that Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, is "making very big efforts to build up their military capabilities... building up their rocket capabilities in the Gaza Strip, and all this is happening because of one important thing: the smuggling of weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip."
Egypt, along with Israel, imposed an embargo on Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas militants took control of the area, but the Israelis and United States have repeatedly urged Egypt to do more to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory.
"Most of the tunnels that are used to smuggle these rockets and explosives and other weapons are in an area of three to four kilometres," or up to 2.5 miles, said the official, who is privy to high-level intelligence information and briefed foreign correspondents on condition that he not be identified.
"We see it in our intelligence. We have photos of this. In many places we can show photos of Egyptian soldiers located less than 20 metres (yards) from the opening of a tunnel, and the tunnel is operating under his eyes, under his control, and nobody is doing anything about it."
"Egypt can stop all this smuggling of weapons within 24 hours if they want to do it," he said. "There are enough Egyptian troops and policemen ... located on this border."
Israeli lawmaker Arieh Eldad, a member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, who has access to classified material, confirmed the official`s assessment.
"Egypt is not a country that large quantities of weapons can enter without the authorities knowing," he said, charging that Egypt allows Hamas to acquire arms in exchange for the Islamic militants leaving Egypt alone.
"They could easily train police to look for the smugglers and they don`t," Eldad said.