The notion of smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip is not new; yet, it has accelerated since Operation Cast Lead, since Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have become keen on acquiring standard and "qualitative" weapons. Such weapons will enable them to achieve a significant triumph in public awareness in any future conflict with Israel, through a much broader strike of the Israeli home-front (including longer rocket ranges) as well as in confrontation with IDF (using Anti Aircraft weapons, etc.).
Iran is a most dominant weapon supplier to Hamas and Islamic Jihad
Hamas and PIJ enjoy extensive material backing from Iran in their arming efforts, in light of Iran's determination to amplify its influence in the Palestinian arena and among Palestinian terror groups. Iran substantiates its support of the resistance camp by providing high-quality standard weapons to both groups.
The major smuggling route is from Iran to Sudan, on to Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, and from there to the Gaza Strip, with Iran's direct involvement in providing the arms and transferring them into the Gaza Strip.
As of 2010 hundreds of standard rockets had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip (most of long ranges of up to 20 and 40 km), as well as about a thousand mortar shells, several dozen Anti-Tank items, tons of standard explosives and raw materials for explosive production.
Sinai as center of the smuggling route and the Egyptian failure to foil it
Sudan constitutes central cross-roads in this smuggling route, where the weapons get in various manners from Iran, and are transferred to the Gaza Strip through the Sinai peninsula. The last station before the weapons are introduced into the Gaza Strip is the Sinai, which harbors local infrastructures of smugglers, mostly Sinai-based Bedouins, to whom smuggling serves as a major subsistence. These groups deal with arms procurement and their transfer over the Sudan-Egypt border to the Gaza Strip.
Prior to the upheaval in Egypt and the change of regime, the Egyptians tried to prevent the arms smuggling by engineering projects along the border with the Gaza Strip, such as the subterranean "steel wall" (yet to be completed) and deployment of an array of sensors.
The Egyptian activity did not reduce significantly the amount of smugglings into the Gaza Strip on the count of various, some impartial, difficulties, such as: the length of the border with Sudan (over 1200km), problematic control of the border with Rafah, permeable with hundreds of tunnels, some in densely populated areas. Today the Egyptian regime is busy stabilizing its rule, thus providing free ground for the Sinai smugglers.
The effort for smuggling arms into the Gaza Strip is a confluence of interests – those of Iran – the arms supplier, contriving to gain influence in the Palestinian arena, and Hamas – leading the resistance camp and trying to achieve an advantage over Israel through acquiring standard weapons, namely long range rockets, Anti-Tank and Anti-Aircraft missiles.
This axis enables the introduction of smuggled weapons into the Gaza Strip rather easily through the Sinai peninsula, home to local smugglers who engage in contraband for a living. The potential threat to Israel, in the face of advanced standard weapons escalates, and is further intensified in the wake of Egypt's new regime and the low profile it employs in the Sinai. This creates a wasteland where smuggling can take place almost undisturbed.