Israel has delivered to U.S. officials an incriminating video tape that shows Egyptian police officers helping weapons smugglers cross the border into the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported Monday.
The tape was sent to the U.S. through diplomatic channels to pressure Egypt to act more forcefully against the smugglers, Israel TV said.
Senior Israeli defense officials said they have long believed that Egyptian forces are involved in smuggling arms into Gaza. But they didn't know about the tape. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Palestinians smuggle everything from explosives to cigarettes to human beings from Egypt into Gaza. The smuggling has picked up since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Israeli officials believe Hamas has stepped up arms smuggling since it violently seized control of Gaza in June.
Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, on Monday accused Egypt of doing a "terrible" job in securing the border and said that it hinders negotiations with the Palestinians.
"Egypt's actions are problematic because it strengthens the extremists in Gaza," Livni told the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to meeting participants. They declined to be identified because the meeting was closed.
Livni's remarks came days before Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
An Egyptian security official in the border town of Rafah questioned the authenticity of the Israeli tape and repeated Egypt's insistence that it does all it can to secure the border.
"It is impossible to film any video of any activity on the borders, because there are about 750 border guards," he said. "If there was suspicious action, other guards would inform their superiors. There are also border vehicles conducting patrols on the frontiers around the clock," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Egypt often acts as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.
Arms smuggling and a recent Hamas offer for a truce are expected to be on the agenda.