The Israeli Security Agency (ISA), in cooperation with the Israel Police, has arrested three Israeli citizens and three residents of Hebron on suspicion of trafficking in airsoft guns and parts in Judea and Samaria in order to convert them to firing weapons capable of wounding or killing people.
In recent years there has been an alarming increase in the scope of improvised weaponry in Judea and Samaria that is used – inter alia – by terrorist infrastructures for attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF units. Improvised weaponry is more accessible due to its being cheaper and more available as opposed to proper weaponry. Some of these improvised weapons have been converted from airsoft guns by replacing the barrel and the assembly. The accessibility of airsoft guns, which are available in stores in Israel, has spurred the development of an industry to convert toy guns into real weapons that fire in every respect.
Several terrorist attacks have been carried out in recent years with converted weapons, including the October 2016 shooting near national police HQ in Jerusalem (a woman civilian and a police officer were killed), the October 2015 murders of Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin, and several shooting attacks directed at IDF units in Judea and Samaria in the past two years.
The investigation centered on Yuri Shaulov, a resident of Sderot, who deals in airsoft guns in his store. Over the past two years, Shaulov also trafficked in airsoft guns and parts with Muhammad Abu Hiya, a Hebron weapons dealer who sold the same guns and parts he bought from Shaulov to various elements in Hebron who converted them to firing weapons.
The ISA investigation revealed that Shaulov trafficked in airsoft guns even though he was aware that it was forbidden by law to sell them into or within Judea and Samaria, and that the weapons he sold were due to be converted into proper weapons.
In order to carry out his transactions with Abu Hiya, Shaulov was assisted by two Israeli citizens, Hassan Al-Ubra and Faris Abu Al-Kian, residents of Rahat and Hura, respectively, who acted as intermediaries between Shaulov and Abu Hiya, and carried out the physical transfer of the weaponry to Judea and Samaria.
The State Prosecutor (Southern District), today (Wednesday, 3 February 2021), filed severe indictments against all those involved in the affair.
The ISA will continue to act in order to enforce the ban on trafficking in airsoft guns to elements in Judea and Samaria since these weapons are liable to be converted into proper weapons.
The sale of these weapons feeds a dangerous industry that produces improvised weapons that, as noted above, find their way into the hands of terrorists who use them for attacks against Israeli targets.
Among the terror victims who have been murdered by converted weapons are: Rabbi Eitam and his wife Na’ama Henkin in October 2015, and policeman Yosef Kirma and Lavana Malihi in Jerusalem in October 2016.