Israeli forces thwart largest-ever arms smuggling op from Lebanon

“It’s not that we just caught 61 weapons worth 3.5 million shekels. We have saved the lives of several dozen Israelis,” says a senior police officer.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

The IDF and Israel Police successfully thwarted the largest arms smuggling operation from Lebanon into Israel in history and seized 61 weapons and drugs with a total value of approximately NIS 3,500,000.

Three suspects, Arab residents of the town of Tuba Zangaria, were arrested during the bust.

The police stated Thursday that the suspects were arrested on a highway in the north after the forces blocked their way. During a search of their vehicle, 61 weapons were seized in two cases: 58 handguns, three M16 assault rifles, and a substance suspected as a drug weighing half a kilo.

From the beginning of the year, in only three months, the police have thwarted four smuggling attempts from Lebanon, during which 120 weapons were seized.

Police Northern District Commander Shimon Lavi stated the weapons have their street value, “but I ask you to look at it differently, these new weapons, if they had reached the streets of the Arab sector, would have fired. Anyone who buys an illegal weapon at such a level buys it to use it.”

“So it’s not that we caught 61 weapons worth 3 and a half million shekels. We have saved the lives of several dozen residents here, some of them certainly innocent citizens and even children who could have been harmed,” he underscored.

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He further noted that the police have “taken power from the elements that generate crime in Arab society. And this activity, like all our activities, day in, day out, is designed to give residents the personal security that we all, all residents of the country, are entitled to.”

Hezbollah terrorist organization is usually involved in the smuggling of weapons and drugs from Lebanon into Israel.

The police have stated that the illegal weapons are usually used by criminals, gangs, and rival families and tribes, mainly in conflicts and for the settling of local accounts. However, these weapons are also used for terrorist activities.

Arab-Israeli society is plagued with daily incidents of violence. Over 110 Arabs were killed in criminal violence in 2020 and 126 in 2021.

The vast majority of police activity is carried out in the Arab sector, and about 90% of the suspects arrested for shooting and weapons offenses were Arab Israelis.

Approximately 85% of the indictments filed in Israel in 2021 for shooting, illegal possession of weapons, trafficking, and illegal use of weapons have been filed against suspects from the Arab society.