Shin Bet nabs explosive-smuggling Israeli Arabs

Nasrallah approves complex infiltration involving drug dealers in Lebanon and Israel, security officials say.

Picture of explosives seized by Shin Bet 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)
Picture of explosives seized by Shin Bet 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)
The Shin Bet prevented a series of planned Hezbollah terrorist attacks recently, after a group of Israeli Arabs helped smuggle 20 kg. of high-grade explosives into the country.
On Wednesday, eight residents of Nazareth and the town of Ghajar – half of which is in Israel and the other half in Lebanon – were charged in the Nazareth District Court with helping to smuggle the explosives. Most of them are believed to be drug dealers.
A number of Ghajar residents smuggled the C-4 plastic explosives into Israel in a single bag by on June 5. Each kilogram was wrapped separately and could have been used to assemble a separate bomb.
The bag was transferred a few days later to a resident of Nazareth, Abed Zoabi – a known drug dealer – who hid it in his backyard. The Israel Police found the C-4 in mid- July.
“The explosives could have been used against any type of target inside Israel,” a senior Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) official said on Wednesday.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg of Hezbollah’s efforts against Israel.... The attempted attack here and the recent attack in Bulgaria are all carried out by the same organization.”
The Shin Bet official said that such an operation – smuggling explosives into Israel from Lebanon – would have needed approval from the top Hezbollah echelon, likely including the organization’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
The official said it was possible that Hezbollah was working with other people to recruit terrorists who would then be used to carry out attacks in Israel. So far, the Shin Bet has not arrested anyone who was supposed to carry out the attacks.
Zoabi, according to the Shin Bet, was in touch with a Lebanese drug dealer named George Nimer who has ties with Hezbollah and instructed Zoabi to hold on to the bag of explosives. Nimer told Zoabi that someone would contact him soon to collect it.
The Shin Bet said there was concrete intelligence linking Nimer to Hezbollah and to specific operatives in the organization. Zoabi and Nimer spoke by cellphone after two of Zoabi’s friends helped smuggle Israeli SIM cellphone cards to Jordan whence they were then sent to Lebanon.
One of the suspected drug dealers arrested in Ghajar, Shahid Ibrahim, received the bag and hid it for a short time in a field he owns near the village.
Ibrahim’s brother-in-law is Said Kahamuz, an Israeli citizen and former resident of Ghajar who fled to Lebanon in 2006 as he stood trial for smuggling drugs into Israel.
The Shin Bet official said that revelation of the terrorist plot was not expected to lead to a drop in Hezbollah’s motivation to attack Israelis at home and throughout the world.
“Hezbollah is trying to create a deterrent with Israel and they think that attacks like these will achieve that,” the official said.
While Arab Israelis have been arrested before on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks, the current arrests included one of the largest hauls of explosives that were ready for use.
The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court extended the custody of the defendants until August 29.
“The uncovering of this cell prevented major terrorist attacks,” Northern District police head Asst.-Ch. Roni Attia said in Nazareth on Wednesday.
“Now, when the complex security reality is knocking on our door, inside and outside the country, the public has an opportunity to take a close look at the systematic and combined work of all the security forces,” Attia said.
He added that the northern police district dedicates considerable resources to counterterrorism, alongside crimefighting.
In 2001, residents of Rama, near Karmiel, and Daliat al- Carmel, near Haifa, were arrested for smuggling narcotics and arms from Lebanon.
Security forces said the weapons were destined for terrorists in the West Bank.
In 2002, a group of Israeli Arabs was arrested for sending sensitive information to Hezbollah in exchange for cash and for drugs that were later sold in Israel.
Security forces arrested residents of Ghajar and Kiryat Shmona in 2003 on suspicion of taking part in smuggling large quantities of arms and drugs on behalf of Hezbollah, and collecting sensitive information in Israel.
In recent years, several Israeli Arabs were arrested on suspicion of plotting attacks after falling under the ideological sway of al-Qaida.
Residents of Ghajar expressed disbelief that young men from the village were among the 14 involved in the terrorist plot, a lawyer representing one of the accused told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
“Everyone is in total shock.
The people of Ghajar are citizens of Israel in every sense of the word and they would not do something like this,” attorney Kamal Hattib, a Ghajar resident, said.
Hattib, who represents defendant Musa Hattib, said his client “has nothing to do with any sort of terror plot,” adding that he “is the last person who would do something like this.”
Hattib said the court and the security services agree, as his client is only facing charges that deal with drug trafficking and not security offenses.
Smuggling has been a way of life for some residents of Ghajar, an Alawite village of around 2,500 residents on the Golan Heights. The village straddles the border of Lebanon and Israel with residents living on both sides, while the Hatzbani River, a popular conduit for contraband, runs along the edge of the village.
Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the IDF and security services have operated a checkpoint at the entry to the village. Residents complain that the “blockade” has dried up local businesses and limited employment opportunities for the village’s youth.
Hattib, who has also represented villagers in a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state for damage caused to local houses during the Second Lebanon War, said, “There is a blockade here, and you are searched every time you leave or enter the village. With all of that and the army, and the police, they still can’t secure this one part of the border? The government needs to wave a flag of surrender, because they have failed completely and they are to blame.”