Israeli security forces foil weapon smuggling attempt at Lebanese border

Police investigating Hezbollah's involvement after seizing assault rifles and 100 fragmentation grenades.

A smuggling attempt foiled at the Lebanon border, 4/26/2022.

Security forces on Tuesday thwarted the weapons smuggling, believed to have been the work of Hezbollah, across the border from Lebanon and seized assault rifles and about 100 hand grenades.

IDF forces spotted suspects approaching the Lebanese side of the border fence towards Israel and when troops and police officers arrived, they found two assault rifles the grenades. Police said they are investigating whether Hezbollah was responsible for the smuggling attempt, as other events indicated that the group was involved.

Hezbollah, the police said, “works with Israeli criminals to bring in weapons in the hope that at least some will get through and be used in terror activity as the group tries to create a terror infrastructure in Israel.”

Both weapons and drugs have been smuggled into Israel through the northern border and some of the weapons having been used in terror attacks.

“The fact that fragmentation grenades were sent, a munition that has not so far been seized, raises suspicion that they were intended to be used in attacks in crowded civilian places,” the statement said.

A large amount of grenades, including fragmentation, smoke, and practice varieties, seized in a smuggling bust near the Lebanese border, 4/26/2022. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)A large amount of grenades, including fragmentation, smoke, and practice varieties, seized in a smuggling bust near the Lebanese border, 4/26/2022. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The IDF has flagged the border area with Lebanon as vulnerable to enemy infiltration. In the past year it has seen dozens of drugs and weapons smuggling incidents as well as several infiltrations by migrant workers.

According to IDF data, last year the military thwarted nine attempts to infiltrate from Lebanon and two from Syria. It also confiscated 120 kilograms of drugs and 75 weapons.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) says that Iran and Hezbollah are behind the recent weapons smuggling attempts and a special team comprising the IDF, the Shin Bet, police and other security bodies has been set up to fight the smuggling.

Last summer, the IDF said it believed that Hajj Khalil Harb, a top Hezbollah official, had operated a drugs and weapons smuggling operation into Israel and on Monday the IDF revealed the identity of more smugglers believed to be working for Hezbollah.

According to the military, Hatem Sheet, a resident of Kafr Kila, a Lebanese village adjacent to Metula, runs drugs and weapons smuggling operations for Hezbollah from his home next to border that overlooks Israeli territory.

Sheet is a prominent drug dealer in southern Lebanon and is said to coordinate smuggling operations with Israeli smugglers through a variety of applications, including Telegram. He also keeps watch from the balcony of his home to glean information IDF activity in the area.

The IDF named Hassan Sareini (nicknamed Abu Muhammad) as an operative who runs field smuggling operations for Harb alongside Sheet and others.

“The IDF and the police will continue to act against any attempt to violate sovereignty [and against] terrorism, smuggling and criminal activity on the Lebanese border,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said after Monday’s smuggling attempt.

On Monday, security forces also seized 24 handguns and 800,000 Jordanian dinars ($1.1 million) in cash after a Palestinian man from Jericho was spotted approaching the border with Jordan. Police set an ambush in an open area and waited until the man had crossed before arresting him.

On Saturday, IDF troops also foiled the attempted smuggling in of $1.2 million worth of drugs from Egypt.

Over the years, the 240-km.-long border between Israel and Egypt’s Sinai has witnessed countless drugs and weapons smuggling attempts by Bedouin.

In the first two months of 2022, several smuggling attempts along the Egyptian border were thwarted. In one incident in February, troops stopped an attempt to smuggle over 200 kg. of marijuana and hashish estimated to be worth NIS 4 million.

In late January, two undercover police officers were wounded when IDF troops from the Caracal battalion mistakenly shot at their car thinking that it belonged to smugglers.

That incident occurred after smugglers on the Egyptian side of the border drove up to the fence in armored vehicles and opened up with heavy gunfire towards Israel in an attempt to deter IDF troops from approaching the area.

The military said that nine smuggling attempts were thwarted that night and that security forces seized approximately 400 kg. of drugs with an estimated street value of about NIS 8 million, making it “one of the most active nights on the Egyptian border in recent memory.”

Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.