Shin Bet Uncovers Major Hamas Smuggling Network
Israel has uncovered an efficient network operated by Hamas to acquire and smuggle materials used for strengthening the organization’s military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip according to the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet or ISA).
Together with the Israel Police, Israel Tax Authority and the State Attorney’s Office, assisted by the Defense Ministry, the IDF and the Justice Ministry, the Shin Bet had recently uncovered a smuggling network used to bring merchandise and goods to rebuild Hamas’s terror activities.
By means of this network, Hamas purchased and brought into the Gaza Strip thousands of tons of raw materials that were used in its military installations, to prepare attack tunnels, at its training facilities and for the manufacture of war materiel.
Israeli, foreign and Palestinian Authority-based suppliers supplied the materials, which included iron, concrete, electrical and electronic equipment, fiber optic cables, communication devices, digging equipment and drills.
Elements in Israel, reported for the most part of having been aware of the destination of these goods, were used to store the materials before they were transported to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
In certain instances, the materials that were purchased in Israel were transported from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing directly to Hamas training bases and installations, according to the Shin Bet report.
As routes through Sinai became more difficult, the Kerem Shalom Crossing became more valuable to Hamas, with “large quantities of materials being systematically purchased in Israel and smuggled through over a period of time.” The Kerem Shalom Crossing is the only passage allowing for the transfer of merchandise and goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Throughout Operation Protective Edge, the State of Israel maintained the regular operation of the Kerem Shalom Crossing in order to allow the importation of consumer goods and basic products for the population of Gaza.
The report noted how Hamas “cynically” exploits Israel’s humanitarian approach and how Hamas does not hesitate to endanger the basic interests of the Palestinian public in its efforts to rebuild its Gaza-based military capabilities.
The Shin Bet, in conjunction with the Israel Police and Israel Tax Authority, has so far investigated 26 suspects, including Israeli citizens, who were involved in supplying the materials, storing them and smuggling them through the Kerem Shalom Crossing. The Israel Police and Israel Tax Authority have also investigated additional suspects. Trucks and large quantities of to-be-smuggled materiel were seized.
One of the Gaza terrorist involved was Muhammad Abu Halima, who purchased tons of pipes and iron which were transported directly to Hamas installations built on the ruins of former Jewish communities.
In response to the network discovery, Israeli security and law-enforcement authorities will tighten the supervision of goods designated for the Gaza Strip and will use all legal means to combat smuggling. Severe indictments – including for security offenses – have been filed in Be’er Sheva District Court. Requests have been filed regarding the confiscation of the seized vehicles and materials.
Last week, the BBC reported that Gaza’s Islamic Jihad terror organization recently granted the news service exclusive access to a well-constructed tunnel, used in last summer’s war against Israel. The video report showed masked Islamic Jihad terrorists training militarily, with mortar shells and anti-tank missiles in the background. The also report pointed out that little rebuilding among Gaza’s neighborhoods has taken place since Operation Protective Edge ended six months ago.
Hamas has invested vast sums in building up its military infrastructure even as its leaders and spokesmen continually to publicly bemoan the Palestinian public’s dire economic plight.
By Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency