Photo Credit: Kobi Richter/TPS
The IDF Defender - class A boat. Apr 23, 2017

Israeli security forces were successful in exposing and thwarting a naval smuggling network that imported components for the production of weapons for terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet revealed Wednesday.

Operating on the accumulated intelligence, the Israeli Navy captured the smugglers during one of their attempts to import materials used for Hamas’ military buildup.

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The Navy arrested three smugglers on April 8 after they left the Gaza Strip and began sailing toward Egypt. They were stopped by IDF forces when they tried to cross the border in the direction of Egypt’s territorial waters.

Navy sailors seized the vessel, arrested the suspects, and transferred them to the Shin Bet for interrogation.

Israel Navy Ashdod Base Commander, Colonel Eli Sukholitsky, stated Wednesday that his troops “hit a significant network that was used to transfer components to create weapons for terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. The intelligence effort in the IDF and the Shin Bet, combined with the field forces and the naval control system, are what led to the success of the operation.”

The suspects include Mahmoud Aziz Bachar, who was arrested about two years ago after a failed attempt to smuggle weapons for Hamas and was imprisoned for a year in Israel.

The other two are Ahmad Ismail Fatsih and Muhammad Nahad Silawi, residents of t ​​Gaza, who along with their fishing activities are involved in marine smuggling activities.

The Shin Bet investigation of the three revealed that they were on their way to carry out the smuggling of prohibited equipment, some of which was intended for the Hamas organization, in full coordination with Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.

The investigation also revealed that Mahmoud Bachar was involved in further smuggling for Hamas’ military wing after his release from prison.

Since Israel decimated Hamas’ terror infrastructure during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 ad the successive operations, Hamas has been working to rehabilitate its networks and replenish its weapons stockpiles.

It has developed a diverse apparatus for the smuggling of weapons and materials used for its rocket production program into Gaza, including through the mail and by sea.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.
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