Israel uncovers operation to smuggle vehicles into Gaza
Israel has uncovered a smuggling ring that brought over 100 vehicles into the Gaza Strip on behalf of Hamas, the Shin Bet internal security service said Wednesday.
The Shin Bert said it had arrested three Arabs thought to have had major roles in the operation.
The ring disassembled off-road vehicles and hid the parts in trucks carrying permitted cargo into Gaza, with apparently only some of the drivers being aware of the illicit haul.
The smugglers were aware that they were working for people linked to Hamas terrorists, the Shin Bet said.
Israel discovered the smuggling operation after searching cargo passing through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
The security service said the method did not come as a surprise and illustrated the determination of Hamas terrorists and its supporters to obtain equipment.
Defense officials believe the off-road vehicles are meant for Gaza security forces and Hamas’s military wing.
The investigation is ongoing, the Shin Bet said.
The announcement came a day after the Shin Bet cleared for publication that it had detained an Arab terrorist for maritime smuggling of explosives and raw materials for Hamas from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
The navy arrested 24-year-old Hamis Arahishi last month when his boat left the waters Israel permits to be used for fishing.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service said an investigation revealed Arashi had been involved in maritime smuggling of explosives and raw materials for weapons on behalf of terrorist Islamist group Hamas and other organizations in Gaza beginning in 2012.
The Arab terrorist was involved in an April 2016 attempt to smuggle explosives, which was foiled by naval forces, as well as allegedly planning to conduct further smuggling shortly before his arrest.
Arashi also planned in 2014 to attack Israeli soldiers near the kibbutz of Zikim. Zikim, not far from the Gaza Strip, was the site of an attempted infiltration by four Hamas terrorists in July 2014.
Security forces said the terrorist revealed a large amount of information on Hamas maritime smuggling, which reportedly involves fishermen.
The Shin Bet described such efforts as Hamas exploitation of relief measures provided by Israel.