Soldiers from the Yoav Brigade have this year thwarted more than NIS 7 million worth of weapons smuggled from Jordan, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In four large smuggling attempts in the area of the Yoav Regional Brigade (80th Division), 57 weapons worth NIS 7.5 million were confiscated. Another NIS 4 million of cocaine was intercepted and 53 illegal migrants from Georgia, Sri Lanka, Moldova, Turkey and the United States were arrested after illegally crossing the border from Jordan.
The Yoav Brigade's track record
In one event in March, security forces thwarted the smuggling of 37 weapons and “ecstasy” tablets worth NIS 2.3 million. The police said the weapons were set to be delivered to Palestinians in the Hebron area in the West Bank or to criminal elements in the South.
In another attempt in June, forces confiscated three bags containing five M16 rifles, seven pistols, a Kalashnikov weapon and ammunition.
Though there is a peace treaty with Jordan, the border is seen by authorities as having more challenging characteristics than the Egyptian border. A 242-km. (150-mile) barrier stretches along the entire border with Egypt from the Gaza Strip to the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.
The eight-meter (26-foot) tall barrier with Egypt was completed in 2014 and has significantly reduced drug and weapons trafficking and infiltrations by illegal migrants and terrorists.
The border with Jordan, meanwhile, only has a barrier that runs from Ramon International Airport to Eilat. The rest of the border, which is mostly in porous desert terrain and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, has no such physical boundary to stop possible infiltrations.
How has the IDF dealt with it?
Nevertheless, over the past six months, the IDF has integrated three new technological means – including reconnaissance balloons similar to those over the Gaza Strip – to identify and monitor threats long before they arrive at the border.
As with the Egyptians, there is a shared interest in stopping the smuggling. Israeli security forces and their Jordanian counterparts share intelligence and carry out tactical cooperation in order to thwart infiltrations.
While the same threat is not posed by Islamic State radicals in the Sinai Peninsula, drugs and weapons that originate from Iraq and Syria can end up in the West Bank in the hands of potential Palestinian terrorists or criminal gangs inside Israel.
Last year, the IDF and 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 security forces, while crimes such as weapons and drug smuggling have been rampant in the Negev for decades, they have only recently begun to be viewed as a risk to national security. This is in part due to the surge in violence committed during smuggling attempts and weapons thefts from IDF bases.
The defense establishment has also identified attempts by terrorist groups to smuggle weapons and drugs into Israel, similar to attempts by Hezbollah in the North.
Israel is now in the midst of upgrading the fence along its northern border, specifically along the border with Lebanon, where security forces are also thwarting drugs and weapon smuggling by Hezbollah and other criminal groups.
The IDF is also fixing and upgrading the security fence along the West Bank and recently completed the new barrier (underground and above ground) along the border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Authorities have told the Post that it’s a matter of priority. However, they said a fence similar to the one along the Egyptian border will be built on the frontier with Jordan so that the country’s borders will be fully secured.