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U.S., Israel sign MOU on Gaza smuggling

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The United States and its allies will join Israel in efforts to keep arms from reaching Hamas.

A memorandum of understanding signed Friday in Washington by Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, enhances security cooperation.

It draws in NATO and regional allies into the effort, apparently through enhanced monitoring of regional shipping:

"The United States will work with regional and NATO partners to address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, including through the Mediterranean, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and eastern Africa, through improvements in existing arrangements or the launching of new initiatives to increase the effectiveness of those arrangements as they relate to the prevention of weapons smuggling to Gaza."

Iran is believed to be Hamas’ major supplier of arms. The MOU also calls for enhanced intelligence sharing between Israel, the United States and their allies.

Israel considers a stop to weapons smuggling into Gaza as critical in its acceptance of a cease-fire.

Israel launched major operations on Dec. 27 after Hamas ended a fragile cease-fire with a massive intensification of rocket attacks.

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