'Helpless' fight against drug smuggling aids terror funding

Security officials manning Israel's northern and southern borders told the Knesset Tuesday that they felt "helpless" in the bid to stop the flow of drugs into Israel, which allowed Hizbullah and other terror organizations to use the illicit trade as a cornerstone of their terror funding. Border police, army and police officers told the Knesset's Committee for the War against Drugs that in the best case, they were catching between five and 10 percent of drugs trafficked. Between 25-40 kilograms of hashish were smuggled in each day through the northern border, amounting to 10-14 tons a year, officials told the committee. "Hizbullah is directly overseeing the whole operation. They say where, when and how much drugs are brought in," said Avi ElGrisi, a police captain who works in the village of Ghajar. The border between Israel and Lebanon neatly cuts across Ghajar, splitting the village between the two countries. According to ElGrisi, the division makes it nearly impossible to effectively stem the flow of drugs that pour in from Lebanon. "We know who is working with who, but we have no way of doing anything about it," admitted ElGrisi. "There is a direct connection between Hizbullah, Syria, Lebanon and the drugs coming in." Although several steps have been taken, such as the use of a drug-sniffing dog or increasing body searches at the checkpoint, most of those efforts have failed, said ElGrisi. The dog only arrives for an hour or two each day (and the drug traffickers appear to know ahead of time when the canine would be present); and the checkpoint has only male officers, so women passing through do not undergo body searches. "This is a crazy situation," said MK Limor Livnat. "Forget falling through the cracks, there is a chasm here." In the south, said Border Police Capt. Avshalom Peled, the situation was even worse. According to Peled, the hundreds of kilometers between Israel and Egypt were completely porous to drug traffickers, who were often supplied with better intelligence than the Israeli officials. "On that whole border, in that whole area, I have only 300 men," said Peled. "You can drive for kilometers there and not see a single security agent." The first thing the government should do, according to Peled, is to build a fence around Eilat, which is easily reached through Sinai and is used as a gateway to the rest of Israel.