The IDF and Israel Police have thwarted the smuggling of 37 weapons and drugs worth an estimated NIS 2.5 million in the Arava region of southern Israel.
During the operation, which took place last Friday morning, military observers identified an attempt to smuggle weapons from Jordan in the area of the Yoav Regional Brigade (80th Division). Troops from the division’s Bardelas Battalion accompanied by Israel Police officers rushed to the spot, deployed roadblocks in the area and, following a chase, stopped a vehicle at the Arava junction.
In the car were two 25-year-old Bedouin men. Following extensive searches, security forces found 34 pistols, a sniper rifle, two Kalashnikov assault rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition of various types, and a number of drug packages with 16,000 “ecstasy” tablets valued at about NIS 800,000.
The police believe that the weapons were set to be delivered to Palestinians in the area of Hebron in the West Bank.
The suspects, weapons, ammunition and drugs were transferred for further investigation by the Israel Police. The suspects will be brought to court on Friday.
“This catch is another success of combining the Israeli Police and the IDF forces in preventing the smuggling of illegal weapons and ammunition from the borders and which, according to the suspicion, may reach terror and criminal elements,” the police said in a statement.
Bardelas Battalion Deputy Commander Maj. Shira Kohavi told The Jerusalem Post that troops first discovered a hole in the border fence with Jordan over a month ago and after fixing it, continued to observe it to catch any sort of smuggling attempt.
“The moment that the two suspects got to the fence on Friday they cut a hole again,” she said, explaining that the two understood that they were being watched the moment they got the bags from the Jordanian side.
The two then hid the bags before getting back into their car, when a 25-minute chase began with security forces led by Kohavi. Though they were caught, it took troops close to 30 hours to find the bags that they had hidden.
“This was the largest smuggling attempt in the Arava in a long time,” Kohavi said. “We don’t see this every day.”
Last year, the IDF along with the Israel Police launched the Magen HaNegev program to crack down on lawlessness and drug and weapons smuggling in the country’s South.
According to those security forces, while crimes such as weapons and drug smuggling have been rampant in the Negev for decades, they have only recently begun to view it as a risk to national security, due in part to the surge in violence committed during smuggling attempts and weapons thefts from IDF bases.
At the beginning of the year, security agencies carried out what they described as a “significant” operation, destroying 40 greenhouses that had been found in IDF firing zones and hundreds of related infrastructure needed to grow marijuana.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that over the course of 2021-2022, more than 2,000 active greenhouses were destroyed by security services, some 1,200 in 2021 alone. Sources explained that many more inactive greenhouses and related equipment were also destroyed or seized by security forces.