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A gang of seven residents of Wadi Ara that stole weapons from soldiers, and then allegedly sold them for thousands of shekels each to criminals and sources within the Palestinian Authority, was released by police Tuesday.
For months, a joint investigation undertaken with the cooperation of a special unit of the Investigative Military Police, as well as the elite Central Investigative Units of both the Hof Subdistrict and the Northern District working together with the Hadera police, has been probing a cluster of gun thefts that all shared similar MO's. So far, police know of at least 60 instances of weapons stolen from soldiers in the Pardes Hana-Karkur, Givat Ada, Benyamina and Zihron Ya'akov but estimate that the number could be even higher.
Those thefts, police said, ended completely with the arrests of the seven alleged gang members. Four suspects in the case were originally detained on August 3, and on Tuesday an additional three suspects were arrested.
According to police, the gang members would scout the Binyamina train station for soldiers coming home on leave, and would then follow their unknowing prey back to the soldiers' houses. Once the victims would leave their weapons in an exposed room of the house, gang members would break in to the house 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, as well as against alleged gang member Mohamed 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 underway, 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 Benyamina area has completely disappeared.