Powell: US Officially Asked Egypt about Arms Smuggling into Gaza
The United States has asked Egypt about reports of arms smuggling from Egypt to the Gaza Strip, and has been told that Egypt is strongly opposed to any such activity, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday, quoted by Reuters.
Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said this week that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was trying to smuggle weapons into Palestinian-ruled areas from Egypt, Jordan and across the Dead Sea.
The allegations were also repeated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who told foreign reporters on Tuesday that at least three shipments of weapons, including Katyusha missiles, had reached Gaza. The Israeli media have also quoted military sources as confirming that Katyushas are already cached by Palestinians in the West Bank.
The Israeli navy said on Monday that an Israeli naval patrol captured on Sunday a boat carrying hundreds of weapons, including Katyusha rockets, for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to use against Israeli targets.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a Damascus-based grouped opposed to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, said it had sent the weapons.
Lebanese officials have denied reports that the seized ship had set out for Palestine from the southern port of Naqora.
Reuters said that Powell did not mention where the US government heard the reports, but took them seriously enough to bring them up with the Egyptian government.
"I'm aware of some reports of weapons entering the southern end of the Gaza Strip and I have raised it with my Egyptian colleagues," Powell told a US House of Representatives subcommittee.
"They suggest they will do nothing to support such things, will act against it and it enjoys no support from Egypt," he added.
Asked about reports of smuggling through Jordan, he said: "I didn't have a case or a specific incident that I had to raise with Jordan."
Israeli newspapers reported recently that a Jordanian truck driver was arrested while smuggling weapons to the PA.
The driver reportedly confessed that he had succeeded in his mission on four occasions after unnamed people in Jordan offered him JD2,000 (about $3000) for each shipment he delivered.
However, the Palestinian Authority denies any link with such operations. Minister of Information Yasser Abd Rabbo told the Jerusalem Post that the PFLP-GC was not a PLO faction, and that the Palestinian leadership could take responsibility for its actions – Albawaba.com
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