Palestinian gun smugglers nabbed in $150K bust

Police say two men caught with 20 handguns were bound for Palestinian Authority-controlled cities.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Two Palestinian men were arrested by police in southern Israel on Monday morning after being caught in possession of some 20 handguns that were likely smuggled from Jordan.

The bust occurred near the Tel Arad archaeological site, which is close to the Bedouin town of Kseifa and just a few kilometers south of the Green Line.

Police said in a statement that they suspected the two men, both residents of Bethlehem in their 30s, were bound for Palestinian Authority-controlled cities in Judea and Samaria.

It was not clear how long the men had been in Israel or whether they had already sold weapons to Arab Israelis.

“We are determined to fight crime in Arab society and collect the illegal weapons,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wrote in a tweet.

“Police have now seized about 20 handguns in the Arad area. We will continue until we cleanse Israel of illegal weapons.”

The illegal weapons trade in Israel is extremely lucrative, and police estimated the value of the seized guns at some 500,000 shekels ($150,000).

While lawmakers, the police and government officials have all offered wildly varying numbers regarding the exact number of illegal guns in Arab-Israeli communities, it’s believed that there are several hundreds of thousands of illicit weapons held by criminals in the country.

In March 2022, Israeli police and IDF troops carried out a massive smuggling bust near the Jordanian border, seizing an estimated 2.5 million shekels ($750,000) of illegal drugs and 37 weapons.

In November 2021, police announced that 78 arms dealers were arrested in the Israel’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.

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.”