Two Arab-Israeli citizens from the western Galilee have been indicted on suspicion that they were recruited by Hezbollah to carry out attacks in the country for the Iranian-backed terrorist group.
The two men, 55-year-old Sultan Atallah from the Druze village of Yarka and 33-year-old Rami Shami from the village of Jadida, were arrested in a joint operation of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Israel Police and IDF in February.
The two men met with two Lebanese citizens known to be weapons and drug smugglers, Hussein Sheet and Akram Sheet, from the south Lebanon village of Kfar Kila in Turkey from November 20-23. According to the Shin Bet, during the meeting, Hussein Shit asked them to smuggle weapons into Israel and to bury them in areas where other individuals recruited by Hezbollah would later take them.
The two were also asked to lay the groundwork for terrorist attacks including kidnappings in Israel. They were said to have been promised a large sum of money if they could abduct Israeli citizens or provide information on suitable targets.
They were also asked to locate sensitive sites within the State of Israel for Hezbollah to strike during war.
The investigation also revealed that Shami, who had previously been convicted of drug smuggling and had spent time in prison, received similar requests and worked to smuggle drugs and weapons into Israeli territory. An MP5 submachine gun was found during the investigation.
According to a statement released by the Shin Bet, the investigation into the two men revealed that Hezbollah attempted to recruit and build a terrorist network in Israel for Iranian intelligence agents using drug traffickers in Lebanon who smuggle drugs into Israel.
The statement said that Atallah understood that Hussein Sheet was a Hezbollah member, and was told that Hezbollah and Iran “want to regain control of the region and seek revenge on Israel for its actions by transferring weapons to the organization’s dormant cells in Israel in order to arm them for ‘emergencies’ and in order to harm senior Israeli officials, military officers and politicians.”
The ALMA Research Center, which specializes in Hezbollah and the threats facing Israel’s northern front, told The Jerusalem Post that the Sheet family is a well-known crime family in southern Lebanon. The family is said to be involved in drug trafficking and is known for its close ties to Hezbollah.
The center identified other crime families that are involved in drug trafficking to aid Hezbollah as the Bero family in Kfar Kila, the Nhara family in the village of Abel Aski, the Asaaf family in Ramish, the Nimr family in el-Kala, the Kahamuz family in Ajar and the Shaheen family in Ain Jarfa.
THE SHIN BET alleges that Iran and Hezbollah are behind the planned smuggling of weapons into Israel.
Both weapons and drugs have been smuggled into Israel from its northern border, with some of the weapons having been used in terrorist attacks in Israel. Last summer the IDF said that it believed that Hajj Khalil Harb, a top Hezbollah official, has been operating a drug and weapons smuggling operation over the border between the two countries.
The ALMA Center says that Harb, who was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US Treasury Department in August 2013, is the head of Hezbollah’s Unit 133 which is responsible for recruiting operatives among Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank.
The IDF said that over the past year, the Shi’ite axis has been increasingly attempting attacks and smuggling weapons into Israeli territory and therefore a special team of the IDF, Shin Bet, Israel Police and other security bodies had been established to deal with the smuggling.
“In the past year, the IDF and security forces have dealt with cases in which a link between the drug smuggling routes from Lebanon and weapons smuggling routes has been exposed,” the military said, adding that dozens of pistols and tens of kilograms of drugs have been interdicted.
The two men were arrested by this team.
“The IDF and the security forces will continue to act as necessary to maintain security in the area and to act against any attempt to violate the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
An indictment was filed Sunday by the Northern District Attorney’s Office against the two alleging serious offenses.
“This affair shows the efforts of Iranian and other terrorist elements to exploit the Arab and Druze citizens of Israel,” said a senior Shin Bet official. “Citizens who receive inquiries from terrorist elements are urged to report this to the authorities and to avoid a situation in which they find themselves involved in serious security activities.”
Though Hezbollah receives significant financial aid from supporters who live abroad as well as through charities, the group relies on a wide variety of criminal activities such as money laundering through shell companies, fraud, drugs, arms and blood diamond trade.
The group also relies on a network of criminal and narcotic rings across the globe, such as in Lebanon, Africa, Asia as well as both North and South America.