ISMAILIA, Egypt: Egyptian authorities have seized six anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets in the Sinai peninsula that smugglers may have intended to send to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, security sources said yesterday.
They said the rockets, taken from a cache in central Sinai late on Thursday, were “modern”, but did not disclose their origin. No smugglers were found in the area.
Egyptian security forces are trying to reassert control over the Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip and which has suffered from lawlessness since the revolt that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The army announced recently it had seized smuggled rockets and other weapons in Egypt’s western desert bordering Libya, which has been awash with arms since the civil war which toppled long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Egypt closed some of the tunnels used to smuggle goods into Gaza last year as part of a crackdown on Islamist militants blamed for the killing of 16 border guards on August 5.
Egypt brokered a truce ending the latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist Palestinian Hamas movement in November. Under the deal, Israel asked Cairo to crack down on Sinai weapons trafficking into the blockaded coastal enclave.
“Hamas has been deterred in the Gaza Strip, and Egypt is committed to preventing the arms smuggling,” Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement yesterday.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has vowed to restore order in Sinai, but mistrust runs deep between the indigenous Bedouin population there and the central government in Cairo.