February 28, 2001
Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz accused the Palestinian Authority on
Wednesday of stockpiling weapons smuggled by sea and underground tunnels
to use in a Palestinian revolt that has been raging for almost six months.
Mofaz said Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority has been
amassing small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and mortar shells. He
said some of the arms, especially mortar shells, had been used in recent attacks
against Jewish settlements in the occupied Gaza Strip.
A senior aide to Arafat called Mofaz’s allegations baseless. “He wants to use
these accusations to cover his crime and aggressions and his future plans
against the Palestinian people,” the aide, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, said.
Speaking in English to Jewish activists from abroad, Mofaz said,
“Lately we have been forced to deal with significant maritime transfer of
weapons into the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians are making a very big effort to
smuggle [ammunition and arms] into the territories, especially into the Gaza
Strip by sea and by tunnels from Egypt to Rafah,” he said.
Palestinian security sources have denied that they have mortar shells or
Israeli television stations have broadcast footage of mortar attacks on at least
two Jewish settlements in Gaza. Mofaz said there had been an escalation in
fighting in the past few weeks and that this had partly been spurred by the
involvement of Palestinian Authority officials in the violence.
“This escalation is due to the fact that more and more Palestinian
policemen and more and more people from the security agencies from the
Palestinian side are taking part in the terror activity and in the circle of
violence,” he said.
Mofaz said there were more than 3,600 incidents of Israeli soldiers being shot
at or attacked with hand grenades or bombs since a Palestinian uprising against
Israeli occupation erupted in late September after peace talks became
deadlocked. He accused the Palestinian Authority of using Arafat’s Fatah
faction as its “operational arm.”
“The implication is that the Authority is being converted into a terrorist
entity,” he said.
Mofaz also threatened Israeli retaliation if Hezbollah guerrillas operating out of
southern Lebanon continue to attack Israeli forces on the border. Hezbollah
guerrillas killed an Israeli soldier patrolling the frontier earlier this month and
Israel responded by firing artillery shells against Hezbollah positions.