Israeli forces arrest Palestinian smuggling network

Israeli security forces succeeded in thwarting another attempt to smuggle weaponry to Palestinian terrorists.

Israeli security forces have exposed a network of Palestinian smugglers engaged in moving terror equipment from the PA-administered territories in Judea and Samaria to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Shin Bet (Israel’s security Agency) stated Monday.

The network is suspected of smuggling hundreds of cameras, some of which were designated for Hamas elements in the Gaza Strip. The equipment smuggled was of dual use and therefore not completely banned.

Hamas uses the cameras for surveillance and reconnaissance in preparation for a pending attack on Israel.

In December 2016, the Shin Bet arrested two suspects, both merchants – Nofal Abu Siriya from the Gaza Strip and Nader Massalma from the PA area.

The Shin Bet learned during its investigation that in 2016, Abu Siriya, on several occasions, smuggled goods defined as dual use, which require a special permit for entering Gaza.

The ring smuggled the merchandise to Gaza for Ahmed Abu Nafar and Zaher Bitar, local businessmen who deal in security cameras. The goods included hundreds of cameras, model airplanes and communications cables.

The smuggled merchandise was hidden in a consignment of various electronic goods, such as televisions, washing machines and refrigerators.

The Shin Bet also discovered that in November 2016, Massalma assisted Abu Siriya in smuggling hundreds of cameras inside washing machines that were transported from the PA territories to Gaza.

Several members of the network were aware that the smuggled cameras were designated for members of the Hamas military wing, the Shin Bet said.

The incident is “additional testimony to Gaza Strip-based merchants’ abuse of the permits given [to] them for goods designated for the civilian population in order to smuggle dual-use equipment for the benefit – inter alia – of terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip,” the Shin Bet pointed out.

The Shin Bet stressed that the smuggling method “underscores the efforts undertaken by Hamas, via its collaborators, in order to build up its strength and cynically exploit the commercial permits given by Israel for the benefit of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”

“The security establishment views the foregoing with utmost gravity and will continue to locate and foil attempts to smuggle equipment, goods and dual-use materials to the Gaza Strip, and which are liable to assist Hamas and other terrorist organizations to build up their strength. Those involved – in Israel, Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip – will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” the Shin Bet vowed.

The State Attorney’s Office on Monday filed indictments against Abu Siriya and Massalma in the Be’er Sheva Magistrates Court.

Israel’s combined security agencies have been successful in thwarting multiple attempts to smuggle weapons and materials used for warfare against Israel, mostly into Gaza, almost on a daily basis. Many of these smuggling operations have employed imaginative methods, including by sea and via Israel’s postal service.

Since 2014, when Israel decimated Hamas’ terror infrastructure during Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has been working relentlessly to rehabilitate its networks and replenish its weapons stockpiles, and has attempted to smuggle everything from gun scopes to entire trucks.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News