Man in handcuffs - illustrative.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
Police on Monday concluded “Operation 500” – a year-long undercover operation targeting the illegal arms trade in the Israeli-Arab regions of the Triangle and Netanya. The undercover officer, whose name is under gag order, assimilated into the criminal underworld and was able to purchase numerous weapons and drugs leading to 63 arrests, with more expected, according to police.
Some 600 officers participated in the searches and arrests.
During the operation, the undercover officer purchased 12 improvised homemade submachine guns known as the “Carlo”, three Kalashnikov assault rifles, an unspecified number of pistols, one grenade, and a large quantity of hashish, marijuana and cocaine.
According to intelligence on the price for illegal weapons in the Arab sector the agent gathered, a Carlo sells for between NIS 5,500 to 8,000, while the cost of a Kalishnikov is NIS 32,000 to 38,000.
Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh said Operation 500 was part of a larger movement to build relations with the Arab sector.
“The police are in the midst of a broad initiative to enhance public trust and confidence in Arab society at all aspects of police and law enforcement,” he stated.
Central Region police commander Moti Cohen stated, “The target of this operation is to strengthen law enforcement and provide security for the residents of the Triangle.”
MK Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List told The Jerusalem Post
that the operation was beneficial to the Arab community and that the police must do more to ensure the security of Arab-Israelis.
“I am happy that the real criminals are being captured. But crime is still very high and police must continue to invest in the safety of the Arab-Israeli community” she stated.
In a ceremony honoring the undercover agent, Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan praised him as “courageous” and went on to say that the agent, who is an Arab-Israeli, proves “that the law does not see a difference between Jews, Arabs or Christians, only law-abiding citizens and criminals.”
The agent stated that he chose this assignment because he wanted to serve the law, and disrupt crime in the Arab sector. “I always saw myself on the enforcing side of the law. I offered to serve as an agent and did not think twice... The phenomenon of weapons in the Arab sector is very disruptive to the residents. It is a dangerous phenomenon, which I know very well.”
According to officer “Y,” who handled the training of the agent, the task was to successfully “take a normal citizen and make him into a criminal... who can assimilate with the criminal environment.”
The agent, chosen because of his command of Arabic and appearance, was trained for several months before assuming his role as an illegal arms trader.
According to the Police Spokesman’s Unit, the undercover agent integrated so well that he became a popular figure in the underworld who was called upon to reconcile disputes among criminals.
Operation 500 was undertaken to combat the high crime level and multiple incidents of illegal weapons in the Arab sector.
Ami Ben-David, spokesman for the Central District, told The Jerusalem Post
that his department was having trouble getting at the root of the illegal arms trade. “Most of the time, we were finding the guns without the suspect,” he states. “So we decided the only way to get solve the problem was to get inside the illegal weapons trade with an undercover agent.”
According to 2015 police figures, 59 percent of murders in the country take place in the Arab sector even though Arab-Israelis only make up 21% of the population. While the country’s Arab sector has long been saturated with illegal firearms, the issue of unlicensed guns reached a new level of national attention when Nashat Milhem went on a shooting spree in central Tel Aviv last January.
In March of this year, the government budgeted NIS 2 billion over the next five years towards policing in Arab communities.