The Israel Navy has thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip from the northern area of the Sinai Peninsula, the military cleared for publication on Tuesday.The joint operation with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) took place three months ago. Troops from the 916th Flotilla based in Ashdod intercepted a vessel suspected to be smuggling weapons into the blockaded Palestinian coastal enclave. The two Palestinians aboard the vessel were detained for interrogation. During the investigation, the two revealed that the weapons were intended to be used by Hamas’s naval commando unit.
“The foiling of such smuggling attempts helps prevent the continued arming of the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip and directly damages the capabilities of the group’s naval commando unit,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement. “The Navy works to monitor and stop terrorist activities and smuggling in early stages to prevent the strengthening of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip by sea.”During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, five Hamas frogmen (naval commandos) tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim before they were engaged and killed by the IDF. Since the conflict, Hamas has significantly expanded its naval commando unit with a reported 1,500 frogmen.While weapons smuggling into the blockaded enclave from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has decreased over the years, in 2016, the Navy intercepted a Palestinian fishing vessel returning from the Sinai to the southern Gaza Strip weighed down by weapons. It was the third ship intercepted by the Navy and Shin Bet in a year and half.At the time, Ynet News reported that the Shin Bet said it had identified a pattern by Hamas to smuggle goods from the restive peninsula into the Strip to sell and finance the organization.In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, a Squadron 916 senior officer said the unit plays a central role in dealing with violence stemming from Gaza.“We are the maritime power,” he said. “We are following them. We will stop them before they can carry out an attack. You always have to think where an attack can happen, and when, to be ready. We can’t allow ourselves to fall asleep at the wheel. We have to always think about what’s next.”
Navy, Shin Bet thwart attempted weapons smuggling into Gaza from Sinai (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)