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The long tunnel to a Gaza peace

Egypt, like other Arab states, must stand up to Iran and close the arms traffic to Hamas.

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After nearly two weeks of war in Gaza, indirect talks between Israel and Hamas have begun. That should bring some hope to civilians who face needless killings on both sides. The talks, however, hinge on the future of tunnels from Egypt used to smuggle arms to Hamas – courtesy of Iran, the stealthy Middle East meddler.

Iran's ruling Islamic mullahs, with their long hopes of regional dominance and Islamic unity, are the invisible contenders in this latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The like-minded Islamist leaders of Hamas could not pursue their goal of destroying Israel, or at least scuttling talks for a Palestinian state, without the rockets and other weapons sent with help by Iran or partner Syria.

Blocking the smugglers and their tunnels appears to be Israel's main goal in this war – and it doesn't trust Egypt, whose border guards are either corrupt or incompetent, to again keep watch over the sandy, 10-mile border. "Preventing a Hamas arms buildup is the necessary foundation of any new calm arrangement," says an Israeli spokesman.

Israeli airstrikes have crushed many of the 300 tunnels so far, most of which were dug since Hamas wrested control of Gaza in 2007 from its Palestinian rivals, Fatah. Now Israel wants an international force to block the arms smuggling.

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