Biggest gun bust in Israeli history: 78 arrested

Illegal arms sales are an extremely lucrative industry in Israel, with a single assault rifle selling for as much as 100,000 shekels ($30,000).

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israeli police announced on Tuesday that 78 arms dealers had been arrested in the Jewish State’s largest-ever weapons bust, which snagged some 40 rifles, 13 handguns, two machine guns, and two grenades.

The sweep was carried out by 1,600 police officers, including Special Forces and Border Police troops, and took place in 25 mostly Arab municipalities throughout northern and central Israel.

Jerusalem-adjacent municipalities, towns in the central “Triangle” area including Qalansuwa and Taibeh, and the northern cities of Fureidis, Tamra, Umm El-Fahem, and Dalyat El-Carmel were among those targeted in the massive raid.

Dubbed “Operation Ocean,” Northern District Commander for the Israeli Police Shimon Lavi said in a statement that the major sweep aimed to “drain the swamp and not just catch the mosquitoes.”

Lavi said that illegal arms sales are an extremely lucrative industry in Israel, with a single assault rifle selling for as much as 100,000 shekels ($30,000).

Israel’s police are stepping up the fight against illegal arms sale and skyrocketing crime in Arab communities, Lavi explained, calling the effort “a real war for the daily life of all citizens of the country and their personal security.”

He added that the initiative to restore law and order in Arab municipalities is “a war against the intrusion of criminal elements into local authorities who try and succeed in getting their hands on public funds…[and] against extortion of business owners in the private sector.”

“Crime must not pay off, and we must continue to act more forcefully and increase the pressure on the perpetrators,” he said.

Operation Ocean took months to plan and execute. In August 2020, an undercover agent acting on behalf of the police began purchasing weapons from various arms dealers throughout Israel, slowly gaining their trust and gathering data about major players in the illegal gun industry.

The agent made a staggering 45 purchases over the course of 15 months, and police said the transactions were worth millions of shekels.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised the operation on Twitter, saying it was the first step in a promise he’d made to curb crime in Arab municipalities.

“I congratulate the Commissioner of Police and the Israel Police on an unprecedented operation: 1,600 police officers raided dozens of targets and indicted the 78 largest weapons dealers in Arab society,” Bennett wrote.

“We started working.”

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At least 110 Arab Israelis have been murdered so far in 2021.