Photo Gallery: Rebuilding the Tunnels


EU Initiative Berlin Seeks to Stop Weapons Smuggling into Gaza

Germany wants the European Union to help monitor the borders of the Gaza Strip and prevent weapons smuggling, according to media reports. Part of the plan calls for the EU to resume a mission at the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza, and to help equip Egyptian border guards.

The German government wants the European Union to launch an inititivative to stop weapons from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip,  German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday, citing an informal working paper from the German Foreign Ministry.

The EU must "quickly clarify what contribution it can make towards a lasting ceasefire agreement," the ministry paper says, according to the influential Munich-based broadsheet. An agreement will only work if smuggling is prevented and the Gaza economy can be improved by opening the border crossings, it added.

The German initiative calls for a "rapid reactivation" of an EU mission at the Egyptian-Palestinian border crossing at Rafah. The European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) in Rafah was created in 2005 to help set up effective border management and customs processing at the site. The mission was closed down after Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Training and Equipment

The German Foreign Ministry also wants Egypt to receive EU help in equipping its border police to stop smuggling. That assistance is to take the form of training and the "generous provision of border control equipment," the ministry paper says.

It added that in addition to holding discussions with Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, a way would have to be found to secure approval by the "de factor authorities in Gaza" -- meaning Hamas.

During its eight-day bombing campaign  against missile launch sites in Gaza, Israel also attacked smuggling tunnels in Rafah. Such tunnels are used not only to transport cement, petrol, medicine, clothing, food and everyday items, but also weapons, ammunition, explosives and missile parts for Hamas.

Since the attacks ended with last week's ceasefire, the tunnel building has resumed in Rafah.

cro -- with wire reports
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