The deafening explosion that tore through the testing ground of the Israel Police’s Jerusalem headquarters this week sounded like it came from a mortar shell.

Not only did the blast shake the area and vibrate through stomachs, it also blew a hole through the clothes of a plastic doll representing a child, and left a large black scar on the doll’s upper leg – a first-degree burn, had the doll been a human being.

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Police had gathered journalists to witness the power of illegal firecrackers available to children across the country ahead of Purim. The test-firing of some of the items showed that the firecrackers were, in fact, nothing short of powerful explosives.

Pointing to a desk containing a sample of the “dangerous toys,” Ch.-Supt. Marco Almalich of the police’s national bomb squad focused on a collection of brightly colored pipes.

“These are actually cannons, capable of firing firecrackers 30-40 meters away,” he said.

“The explosions are accompanied by a fire.”

He noted that “smugglers are bringing these in in large quantities.

Some end up in children’s stores. Others are sold out of the back of vehicles to children in residential areas.”

Police have been working year-round to raid the illegal merchandise, using intelligence and informants to seize equipment and make arrests.

“A month ago, we raided a truck containing thousands of these,” Almalich recalled.

In recent years, youth have lost fingers, and in some cases whole hands, to the explosive devices, which are deceptively marketed as harmless toys.

“We know of many cases where hands have been burned severely, fingers blown away, and severe burns from these things exploding in pockets,” Almalich said. “They are very powerful.”

Often enough, peaceful afternoons or evenings in quiet neighborhoods are shattered by the sounds made by the “toys” as they are set off by youths who are unaware of the dangers.

In fact, they pack such a punch that Palestinian rioters have been known to deploy the cannon firecrackers during disturbances, targeting Border Police.

“They can be used to create full-scale explosives, too,” Almalich pointed out. “Children are unaware of the danger and power they can cause. The trauma they have already caused is extensive.”

As such, with the approach of Purim, police have advised parents to ensure their children are armed with nothing more powerful than old-fashioned cap guns.

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