Barak: There is neither hunger nor crisis in Gaza

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the cabinet on Sunday that he felt that there was no crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“There is no hunger or crisis in Gaza,” he said during a security briefing. “More supplies pass through the border crossings today than did during some points of the last cease-fire. Only sensitive materials or construction materials are not transferred in.”

Shin Bet security service Chief Yuval Diskin also briefed the cabinet “An ongoing improvement has been felt in the Egyptian efforts to curb arms smuggling along the Philadelphi route,” he said, referring to a strip of land along the Gaza-Egypt border.

The Shin Bet director explained that the Egyptians replace the forces stationed at the border every few months to prevent soldiers from becoming too attached to the local population, and that several Egyptian officers have already been arrested on suspicion of having taken bribes.

Diskin also addressed the situation within Gaza, saying that tensions were rising between Hamas’ political leadership and the organization’s military wing. According to Diskin, the political leadership wants to engage in public relations and the military wing wants to arm itself and to achieve maximum results in efforts to gain the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Diskin added that Hamas’ “Damascus-based political leaders side with the military wing.”

Diskin also remarked that the chances that the Palestinian will successfully establish a unity government were very small, and that tensions raged between the factions over the elections and security issues.

Shin Bet: Hamas cracking down on Gaza rockets, but arming itself

Diskin also explained to the cabinet that Hamas was working to stop militants in Gaza from firing rockets at Israel, it was nevertheless taking the opportunity to reinforce its own strength in the coastal territory.

“Hamas is working against rocket fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, but is simultaneously building its own force within Gaza and is trying to expand its rocket range, both through internal manufacture and the smuggling of proper weapons from Egypt,” Diskin told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

The Shin Bet director added that Hamas was a particular interest in maintaining calm in the Gaza Strip at this time.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the briefing by emphasizing that while the current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza was nearly absolute, it was still fragile and threatened by Hamas’ participation in arms smuggling.

“We are asked at all times to ease conditions for the Gaza population, to let in materials and equipment,” Netanyahu said. “But we have other interests in the Strip, and those have to do with security.”

“We do not want to strengthen Hamas, not in its capability, not in prevention, and not economically,” he added. “We want [abducted Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit back. We are examining the matter of border crossings and trying to find the balance between easing conditions for civilians while preventing Hamas’ rearmament.”

ref: haaretz

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