by Paul Alster:
November’s “Pillar of Defense” operation by the Israeli military included a couple of unpleasant surprises for Israeli citizens. For the first time, Palestinian terrorists fired missiles at the country’s two population centers, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, sending residents scurrying for shelter.
For years, Palestinian rocket fire was isolated to smaller cities in southern Israel. Israeli military officials say weapons smuggled into Gaza via the new “Silk Route,” a pipeline created and protected by governments including Iran, Sudan and others, made that dramatic new range possible.
In a wide-ranging interview for the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a senior source in the Israeli Defense Force, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained how that smuggling works and what it means.
“You can see how it goes between Iran, northern Sudan, via Egypt. It didn’t gradually evolve and develop like the old merchant trail, ‘The Silk Route.’ It’s not something built thousands of years ago. It is something that we believe government officials sat down and decided on. Let me put it this way; in such countries, under such regimes, we don’t believe that anything is being done without the permission and knowledge of the local power.”
The official, whose assessments are based on his day-to-day experience of combating efforts to supply terror groups in Gaza, said the smuggling of more sophisticated weaponry was facilitated in part by upheaval in North Africa.
“When we are talking about the smuggling of illegal arms into the Gaza Strip” the officer began, “we should focus on a few members of this notorious community; we are talking about Iran, north Sudan, Libya as a state, not a government, and of course, the Sinai Peninsula.”
“Libya has become a serious problem since the fall of the Gaddafi regime because it is an open black market” he said. “Unlike Iran and Sudan, there is no government behind what is going on there. There were huge stocks of weapons (some of it western), that are now being offered to the one able to pay the highest price. The Palestinians are taking advantage of that. They will send procurements missions to look for specific items there (in Libya), or sometimes they are taking part in open auctions in Sinai to whoever will pay the most for weapons like SSR’s, Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, MANPADs etc.”
Read more at IPT
Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist with a special interest in Israeli/Palestinian relations and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to FoxNews.com and the Times of Israel, and blogs at www.paulalster.com