U.S. President Obama Determined to Stop Hamas Weapons Smuggling

Published January 22nd, 2009 - 06:47 GMT

On Jan. 21, 2009 newly elected U.S. President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan that he is determined to stop Hamas from smuggling arms into Gaza. Obama “emphasized his determination to work to help consolidate the cease-fire by establishing an effective anti-smuggling regime to prevent Hamas from rearming, and facilitating in partnership with the Palestinian Authority a major reconstruction effort for Palestinians in Gaza.†[1]

On Jan. 16, 2009 former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni signed a “Memorandum of Understanding†(MOU) – a U.S.-Israeli document aimed at halting arms smuggling. The MOU “provides a series of the steps that the U.S. and Israel will take to stem the flow of weapons and explosives into Gaza,†Rice said. [2]

Shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared a unilateral cease-fire, six European leaders gathered in Jerusalem to show their commitment to stop the arms smuggling into Gaza. [3] The six leaders were British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.  [4]
• The EU is expected to join the effort to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza through tunnels. On Jan. 22, 2009 EU foreign ministers are expected to announce their readiness to contribute units, vessels and technological assistance in order to inhibit weapon transfers from Iran to Hamas. [5]
• Sarkozy suggested that France would provide monitors to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and supply technology to help locate smuggling tunnels. [6]
• Merkel said arms smuggling into Gaza must be prevented and that Germany was ready to support both Israel and Egypt to stop arms smuggling. [7] German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier drafted a proposal for a five-step plan for the Gaza Strip starting with humanitarian aid (financing medicine, food, shelters and fuel). The second step includes activities against arms smuggling. The Department of Foreign Affairs wants Germany to lead the way on this issue as Germany has already come to an agreement with Egypt. A delegation of four experts from the Interior Ministry is expected to travel to Egypt within a short time in order to find out how to prevent arms smuggling through tunnels. [8]
• Brown said: “We are prepared to provide British naval support to stop arms trafficking. […] At the same time we’re prepared to provide European support for monitoring at the crossings.†[9]
• Berlusconi also expressed willingness to provide military personnel to fight arms smuggling into Gaza. [10]

On Jan. 21, 2009 Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared the IDF completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, putting an official end to its military operation against Hamas. [11] In exchange to the withdrawal of its troops, the Israeli government asked for guarantees to put an end to arms smuggling through tunnels.  [12]

Despite Israeli Air Force attacks on the smuggling tunnels dug by militants on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt [13], the tunnel smugglers “are back in business, pumping gasoline and dragging cartons of cigarettes under the Egyptian border through […] passages that survived Israel’s three-week military offensive.†[14]

Iran, which trains, arms and funds Hamas, has dismissed the international efforts to deny Hamas weapons.  [15]


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