The Israel Navy and the Shin Bet (Israel Intelligence Agency) jointly intercepted a boat traveling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, carrying material for the production of rockets and mortars, security officials announced on Wednesday.
The boat, carrying fiberglass resin and three Gazan residents, was intercepted by the navy on January 19.
During questioning, the three suspects on board told the Shin Bet that their smuggling attempt was aimed at assisting Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigade, by providing it with raw material for building rockets and mortar shells.
The Israel Police’s southern district also took part in the investigation. According to security officials, many details on sea-based smuggling attempts between Gaza and Sinai emerged during the investigation, shedding light on how Hamas’s military wing uses the Mediterranean as a smuggling route.
Hamas also uses the sea for the smuggling civilian products to sell to Gaza’s residents, and uses the profits for its purposes, the Shin Bet added.
“Recently, Hamas has invested much in exploiting naval smuggling routes, partly due to Egypt’s efforts to prevent smuggling tunnels that linked Sinai and Gaza,” it said.
The three suspects captured on board the boat were charged on Wednesday at the Beersheba District Court with a range of security offenses.
In November, a senior navy source told The Jerusalem Post about several attempts by Gazan terrorists to smuggle weapons and goods to the Strip by sea, adding that seabased routes have become more attractive for Hamas.
“This poses a threat. There have been a number of smuggling attempts in recent months that we have thwarted.
We are monitoring the area day and night; thwarting smuggling is one of our central missions. We will not allow Hamas to build up its [military] force via sea smuggling,” the source stated at the time.
The increase in attempts to smuggle weapons and contraband into Gaza involves Palestinian fishing boats that head out into the Mediterranean, sail to the Egyptian coast, load cargo, and attempt to return to Gaza. The route has been used for years, but the scope of such attempted runs is expanding, according to the source.
“There has been an increase in these attempts in light of strict Egyptian enforcement against smuggling on the ground in Sinai,” the source said. “This has made sea channels more attractive.”
But only some of the smuggling vessels carry arms, the source said. Others contain contraband, ranging from cigarettes to fishing equipment.
“Every time, it’s something different on board,” he said.
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