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Police said Tuesday they had arrested seven Wadi Ara area residents for allegedly stealing weapons from soldiers and selling them for thousands of shekels each to criminals and individuals inside the Palestinian Authority.
Four of the suspects were taken into custody on August 3, and the remaining three were arrested Tuesday.
The Israel Police and the Military Police's investigative unit have been investigating a number of gun thefts exhibiting similar characteristics for several months. Police have identified at least 60 instances of weapons stolen from soldiers in Pardes Hanna-Karkur, Givat Ada, Binyamina and Zichron Ya'acov, and believe that the number could be even higher.
According to police, the gang members would scout the Binyamina train station for soldiers returning home, and would then follow them to their house. Once the victims would leave their weapons in an exposed room of the house, gang members would break in and take the weapons.
Following the additional arrests Tuesday, an indictment was filed by the Haifa District Attorney's office against alleged gang leader Khaled Awal and Muhammad Mahmid, both in their thirties and residents of the Wadi Ara town of Muawiya.
Police said that in January 2005 Awal was sentenced to public service within the Pardes Hanna-Karkur regional council, during which time he "became better acquainted" with the area.
The remaining five suspects were all released on restricted terms.
The investigation into the theft and alleged sale of the weapons is still ongoing, under the auspices of the Hof CIU and the Hadera Police Station.
"This is a gang that created a lot of damage," said one senior officer in the Hof Subdistrict, adding that since the gang members were detained, the local cluster of weapons theft in the Binyamina area has completely disappeared.
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