By Aaron Klein
JERUSALEM — Libyan weapons are being smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned yesterday.
Addressing the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu warned “Libyan arms continue to flow into Gaza through Sinai.” He indicated that there were “more than 10,000 missiles” in Gaza, some of which had a range “surpassing 40 kilometres (24 miles).”
Just last week, KleinOnline was first to report Libyan rebels are selling large quantities of weaponry to Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli security sources.
The sources noted the weapons were seized after the regime of late Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi was toppled by rebel fighters with help from the U.S-led NATO bombing campaign.
The weapons include French and Saudi munitions and equipment seized by the rebel gangs, the sources said.
The weapons are being sold to the Gazan groups Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jihadiya Salafia, said the sources.
The Israeli security sources said there is information that Islamic Jihad used Iranian funds to purchase rockets from Libyan rebels that can travel farther than Tel Aviv if the projectiles are fired from the Gaza Strip.
These are not the first reports of Libyan weapons making it to Gaza.
In October, KleinOnline quoted Islamic Jihad sources saying a missile launcher capable of firing up to five projectiles at once that originated in Libya was smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
Abu Mussaab, a senior member of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds military wing, told KleinOnline at the time that such launchers were recently smuggled into Gaza.
“This is not the only surprise,” added Mussab.
He promised an improved missile and rocket arsenal to be used against Israel “in the very near future.”
Mossaab hinted the launcher originated in Libya.
Other Islamic Jihad sources told KleinOnline the launcher indeed originated in Libya.
Also, the information of Libyan weapons sales came after KleinOnline reported two weeks earlier Iran had been funneling weapons to Islamic Jihad at a time when Hamas has been debating scaling back its affiliation with its Iranian backers.
According to well-placed sources within Hamas speaking to KleinOnline, the jihadist group has been asked by the Egyptian military to stay out of any future confrontation between Israel and Iran.
For the first time in recent years, Hamas, feeling confident from major Muslim Brotherhood gains in the region, is considering distancing itself somewhat from Iran, the sources said.
The group may even remain largely neutral if Israel strikes Iran’s suspected nuclear sites, the sources said. The sources added, however, that no decision has been made.
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood belong to the Sunni stream of Islam while Iran’s leadership espouses fundamentalist Shiite Islam. While Iran has long supported Sunni groups like Hamas, the major differences in Islamic ideology and practice have always caused some unease.
Indeed, one of the most senior Hamas officials, speaking previously to KleinOnline on condition of anonymity, once said he would ultimately be pleased if Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear sites even if it means scaled-back Iranian funding to his group. The Hamas official said he fears Iran would use a nuclear umbrella to enforce a Shiite superpower in the Middle East at the expense of Sunni ideology.
According to several Hamas sources, there has been tension between the jihad group and Iran over Hamas’ decision to not aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in fighting an insurgency targeting Assad’s regime.
That uprising has been supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria is a major Iranian partner in the region.
Some Hamas leaders even speculated the group may move their political headquarters from Syria. Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal currently resides in Damascus.
According to recent Arabic-language news media reports, Hamas has been quietly scaling back its Damascus headquarters.
Speaking last month to KleinOnline, Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to Hamas’ de facto prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, confirmed reports his group is looking to move the headquarters of its top leadership from Syria.
“There are many places in the Arab world [that would welcome the] Hamas politburo,” Yousef said.
Asked specifically where Hamas headquarters can move, Yousef replied: “There are many other countries. Jordan is there. Sounds like they are trying to open dialogue with Hamas. They might offer a place. Turkey, Egypt, Qatar; there are many places where [Hamas leaders] can find a safe haven to work and try to help their people in Gaza and the West Bank.”
While Hamas might not come to Iran’s aid in the event of an Israeli strike, sources in the Islamist group told KleinOnline the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror organization in the Gaza Strip is still firmly in Tehran’s camp.
The Hamas sources said Islamic Jihad has very similar weaponry to Hamas, including a massive rocket arsenal capable of causing much damage to Israel.
KleinOnline reported in October on Iran’s missile training in Gaza. Egyptian security officials said Iran has been preparing Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon to retaliate in the event of Israeli strikes against Tehran’s nuclear sites.
The chatter about Hamas’ allegiances come after the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist Salafi movement’s Al-Nour Party saw considerable gains in Egypt’s recent parliamentary votes.