Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's uncompromising war on terrorism, especially along the border with the Gaza Strip, seems to be bearing fruit. It is a war that is being waged away from the spotlight and with almost no reaction from the international community.
This situation is a perfect example of how the international community and the United Nations do not care about the "plight" of the Palestinians as long as Israel is not involved. Sisi's war on terrorism has thus far failed to spark the same uproar, if any, that is often triggered by Israeli military operations against Hamas and its smuggling tunnels.
As a result of this war -- which began in 2013, shortly after Sisi came to power, with the destruction of hundreds of smuggling tunnels along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip -- Hamas and other armed groups are now more isolated than ever.
But it is not only the isolation that worries Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip.
Rather, it is that Egypt's tough security measures --which include the destruction of more than 1700 tunnels and the creation of a security zone along its border with the Gaza Strip -- have brought the smuggling of weapons to a near halt.
"The smuggling (of weapons into the Gaza Strip) has been stopped almost completely," admitted Abu Mohammed, a Palestinian arms dealer from the town Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. "Rarely does anyone manage to smuggle light weapons or ammunition."
Abu Mohammed revealed that the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip has virtually stopped since February this year. He complained that it has become impossible to smuggle missiles and rockets into the Gaza Strip.
Abu Mohammed said that the Egyptian security crackdown on smuggling tunnels has caused a shortage of various types of weapons and ammunition in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Sisi's crackdown has led to an upsurge in the prices of many weapons, he added.
For example, the Palestinian arms dealer noted, the cost of one bullet, which used to sell for one US dollar, had doubled in recent months. Similarly, the price of an Egyptian-made AK-47 assault rifle has risen from $900 to $1300.
Attempts by some of the Palestinian owners of the smuggling tunnels to rebuild them have been unsuccessful due to the ongoing Egyptian measures, Abu Mohammed said. The measures include the use of explosives and wastewater to destroy the tunnels, he added.
Buoyed by the success of their anti-terror campaign, the Egyptian authorities are now studying the possibility of expanding the security zone they recently set up along the border with the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians say the move is needed to prevent terror groups from expanding their activities in northern Sinai.
Since the beginning of the year, the Egyptian authorities have discovered and destroyed an additional 240 smuggling tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip. One of the tunnels was nearly three kilometers long and three meters deep, according to Egyptian security officials. The tunnel is the longest one uncovered so far by the Egyptians.
Egyptian soldiers prepare to blow up a large smuggling tunnel they discovered along Sinai's border with Gaza, September 2014. (Image source: Almyan video screenshot)
President Sisi has now decided to combat Hamas's smuggling tunnels also through legal means. This week, he signed a new law, according to which anyone who digs a tunnel along Egypt's borders would face life imprisonment.
The new law came amid reports that some anti-government jihadists from Sinai had received medical treatment in hospitals inside the Gaza Strip. The reports confirm fears of Egyptian government officials that the jihadists in Sinai are working together with Hamas to undermine security and stability in Egypt.
The new law followed another bloody day, when five people were killed and some 30 injured in bomb blasts outside a security installation, in the Sinai town of El Arish. Earlier, another terrorist attack on security forces left seven soldiers killed near Sheikh Zuweid, a town in northern Sinai near the Gaza Strip border.
Sisi has shown real guts and determination in his war to drain the swamps of terrorists. The tough measures he has taken along the border with the Gaza Strip have proven to be even more effective than Israel's military operations against the smuggling tunnels.
That the Gaza Strip is facing a weapons shortage is good news not only for Israel and Egypt, but also for the Palestinians living there.
It is hard to see how Hamas will rush into another military confrontation with Israel -- where Palestinians would once again pay a heavy price -- at a time when Sisi's army is working around the clock to destroy smuggling tunnels, and the prices of rifles and bullets in the Gaza Strip are skyrocketing.