Israel thwarts weapons smuggling into Gaza Strip

Weapons were being smuggled from northern Sinai into the blockaded enclave for Hamas

Navy, Shin Bet thwart attempted weapons smuggling into Gaza from Sinai (photo credit: SCREENSHOT/IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Navy, Shin Bet thwart attempted weapons smuggling into Gaza from Sinai
The Israeli Navy and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip from the northern area of the Sinai Peninsula, according to a release the military cleared on Wednesday.
“The intelligence and operational activity was conducted following joint operational and intelligence efforts of the Israeli Navy and the [Shin Bet] along with the IDF Intelligence Directorate,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.
The joint operation took place several weeks ago after Shin Bet officers identified suspects involved in the smuggling ring and cooperation between the military and Shin Bet enabled the detection of the vessel being used to smuggle weapons into the blockaded coastal enclave.
The maritime intelligence operators of the Israeli Navy then located the suspected vessel and dispatched Navy troops to pursue and intercept it.
Following the interception of the vessel, the ship and two terrorist operatives on board were arrested and detained for interrogation by the Shin Bet. One of the detainees was identified as Mahmoud Bakir, a senior smuggler who has worked with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
“His arrest is a significant operational achievement,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, adding that he was indicted in the Beersheba District Court on June 4.
During the investigation, the two revealed that the weapons were intended to be used by Hamas and also shared details of the terrorist group’s use of the sea for smuggling as well as details about other smugglers and equipment used for force built-up by Hamas.
“This operation joins a series of thwarting activities intended to prevent the armament plans of the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip, degrade their force generation capabilities and is part of the ongoing effort to thwart terror activity of any kind against Israeli civilians,” the IDF said.
“The IDF and Shin Bet will continue operating to thwart terror activity and naval smuggling intended to strengthen terror groups in the Gaza Strip.”
While weapons smuggling into the blockaded enclave from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has decreased over the years, in February Israel’s Navy intercepted a vessel suspected to be smuggling weapons into the blockaded coastal enclave that were intended to be used by Hamas’s naval commando unit.
Though the past few months have seen an unprecedented quiet along the border with the Strip, on Monday terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel, striking an empty field, causing no injuries or damage. In response, the IDF retaliated with airstrikes and tank fire against Hamas targets, including an underground infrastructure belonging to the group.
It was the first rocket fire since May.
The violence comes amid rising tensions between Israel and terrorist groups in the Strip, over apparent delays in the transfer of Qatari aid money to Gaza as well as the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.
The last year saw the most serious escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza terrorist groups since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Seven Israelis were killed during the violence and hundreds more injured. Thousands more continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress.
Dozens of rounds of violence has seen over 1,500 rockets and mortars fired toward Israel. While Hamas has temporarily halted the Great March of Return protests, over the past year and half of weekly riots thousands of Palestinians gathered along the border fence and have also taken part in naval flotillas from Gaza that tried to infiltrate into Israeli waters.