(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), in coordination with the police, has scored a major bust of an alleged joint Israeli-Arab-Lebanese- Hezbollah narcotics ring which was also trying to import weapons, possibly for a Hezbollah-sponsored attack during Operation Protective Edge.
Authorities, said the operation, which included the Israeli Border Police for Lebanon and Northern Police narcotics specialists, led to the arrests of the suspects on July 27 for engaging “in terrorist activity at the behest of Hezbollah,” the military censor permitted the local press to report on Thursday.
The suspects have been identified as A-Khalim Abbas, a resident of Nahaf; his brother, Iz a-Din Abbas, also from Nahaf; Ahmed Mazariv, a resident of Beit Zarzir; and Riyadh Marariv, also of Beit Zarzir.
According to the Shin Bet these Israeli-Arabs, as well as 12 others whose identities have not been revealed and whom the authorities repute to be drug dealers, were arrested for business ties to narcotics traffickers in Lebanon who are believed to be connected to the Shi’ite terrorist organization.
The Shin Bet, working in tandem with Israel Police, obtained information during interrogations over the last month, while the Arabs’ arrest was kept under wraps.
Crucially, the Shin Bet noted Hezbollah’s statements during Operation Protective Edge of its intent to assist Hamas in fighting Israel and added that the drug operation could well have been an attempt to cover a broader goal of importing weapons and establishing a terrorist infrastructure to perpetrate terrorist attacks.
This point made the bust even more significant, the security agency said.
The security agency linked the Israeli-Arabs to George Nemar, a Christian-Lebanese resident of Marjayoun and a major player in Hezbollah’s drug trade.
The Shin Bet said that those arrested were involved in clandestine communications with Nemar, transferring drugs to him and developing mechanisms for transporting weapons across the border.
The interrogation uncovered a plan to transfer significant weapons to Israel along with the drugs, and the four reconnoitered the Israeli border patrols to best determine how to circumvent them.
Questioning the four also uncovered their alleged connections to several other major Lebanese drug figures with deep connections to Hezbollah, including: A’ssaf Elias Najib A’ssaf of Ramish, Khatam a-Rahman Sit of Kafr Kila, Kaid Muhammad Hasin Beru of Beirut, Nadim Marhaj Kassam Shahin, a Druse from Hasbaya.
A Shin Bet statement said that some of those being questioned had been in communication with Nemar even before the recent drug and weapons operations and that these contacts had likely led to prior weapons imports, which were found in the possession of one of those questioned.
The arrests follow a major July 2012 bust of a similar Hezbollah-Israel ring of around 20 people, which involved the seizure of 20 kg. of explosive material and several mechanisms for detonating it.
The munitions had been stowed in an identical manner to the packaging of drugs – and the drugs were illegally transferred using established platforms of the drug trade.
Most of the 20 arrested claimed that they were running drugs and had no idea they were being used to import explosive material.
The Shin Bet mentioned that some of those involved have also been engaged in trying to run drugs across Israel’s border with Jordan and Syria.