"Egypt is doing everything it can to stop smuggling through the illegal tunnels of Rafah, and if someone wants to suggest otherwise they better be able to proffer proof", an angry Egyptian diplomat said offhandedly in response to a question from Ahram Online about the recent complaints made by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman regarding the alleged continuing smuggling of arms into Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Speaking during a joint press conference with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, Liberman said that the Israeli siege on Gaza would only end if the smuggling were stopped.
"The international community must take responsibility for the Philadelphia Corridor, for the Rafah Crossing, to prevent and to stop the smuggling of missiles, weapons, and explosives from Sinai into the Gaza Strip," Liberman said earlier in the week. He added, “If the international community will stop the smugglings, we won't have any reason for any restrictions.”
According to a Western humanitarian worker in Gaza, the smuggling through tunnels between the Eastern Egyptian border city of Rafah and the "extremely impoverished Gaza" has been “so reduced as to be close to nothing".
Speaking on conditions of anonymity, she added that the harsh clampdown by the Egyptian authorities on smuggling through tunnels has caused a drop not just in the volume of weapons entering Gaza "which we don’t mind at all" but also it caused "a disturbing decrease in food and medication that used to come in through the tunnels".
The UN and independent humanitarian organizations believe that the economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza has declined sharply due to the suffocating siege imposed by Israel on Gaza for close to four years.
A recent open letter by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network called on the European Union to get Israel to end its "illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip".
According to the letter, the promises made to the international community six months ago to "ease" the blockade have not been matched with much real action on the side of the Israeli authorities. "The blockade on Gaza is illegal under international law and amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's entire (1.5 million) civil population," the letter reminded.