A massive amount of fireworks, knives and Tasers police believe were meant in part to be used by rioters clashing with police were seized last week by Jerusalem District detectives and officers from the Tax Authority and the Ashdod Port Customs, police announced on Thursday.
Police said the seizure came after Jerusalem detectives ran an undercover investigation along with the tax and customs officials, during which they were able to track and seize two shipping containers which came to Ashdod by way of China. The fireworks were hidden among Christmas decorations inside the containers, which were intended for Arab residents of the largely Christian east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina.
Last Tuesday, three of the suspects arrived at the Ashdod Port and claimed the containers, and then drove with them on trailers to a storehouse in Afula, where they planned to unload the merchandise. They were then arrested at the spot before unloading the containers, as was the owner of the storehouse.
Inside the containers police said they found 18,000 fireworks of the restricted 20mm variety, as well as 5,200 commando knives, 4,300 flashlights that can be modified into improvised Tasers, 5,500 Tasers, and 1,000 swords.
Fireworks have become a highly popular tool of rioters facing off with police and soldiers during riots in the Arab sector, in particular in East Jerusalem. The firecrackers, including large roman candles, are pointed horizontally towards police and soldiers and fired like ammunition. Some of the larger gauge fireworks can penetrate police protective gear at close range, including their plastic shields. All can cause severe burns and if some of the larger ones hit on the right spot, such as the neck, they can potentially be fatal.
On Tuesday, the Knesset Economics Committee voted to ban the import of fireworks through February 15th, noting that the explosives had been used as weapons against security forces in clashes.
"Fireworks have become a significant danger to the security forces and we must eliminate their use as a weapon," said committee vice chairman MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid).
The expiration date on the limitation was put in place to ensure the ban did not excessively hurt importers, but the Yaron Mor, who chairs the forum of firework importers, noted that the ban might not be effective in and of itself. In testimony before the committee, he said that there were smuggled containers of fireworks in the country that could still fall into the wrong hands.