The Shin Bet security service said Monday it busted a smuggling ring last month that allegedly attempted to import hundreds of cameras, toy airplanes and electrical cables, hidden inside washing machines, refrigerators and television sets, to the Gaza Strip.
West Bank Palestinian Nader Masalmeh and Nofal Abu Sraya from the Gaza Strip were arrested in December, the security agency said, though details of the case were kept under a gag order.
An indictment was filed Monday against the two men in a Beersheba court.
Two other Gazans allegedly belonging to the smuggling ring, Ahmad Abu Nafer and Zahar Bitar, have yet to be arrested.
In a statement, the agency said the smuggling operation was “additional testimony to Gaza Strip-based merchants’ abuse of the permits given them for goods designated for the civilian population in order to smuggle dual-use equipment for the benefit — inter alia — of terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip.”
The illicit goods, which Israel designates as having both civilian and military uses, were smuggled into Gaza inside permitted appliances and were later unpackaged and sold within the coastal enclave. The equipment was shipped from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing, the agency stated.
Last November alone, hundreds of the cameras were smuggled into Gaza, the Shin Bet said.
The recipients of the illegal goods included Hamas — a fact which was known to at least some of the members of the smuggling ring, according to the statement.
“The smuggling method that was discovered by the security forces underscores the efforts undertaken by Hamas, via its collaborators, in order to build up its strength and cynically exploit the commercial permits given by Israel for the benefit of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip,” the statement added.
In September, the Shin Bet said it uncovered a smuggling ring led by Israeli citizens that brought automobiles into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main goods conduit between Israel and Gaza. Hundreds of trucks delivering food, aid and other goods pass through the Kerem Shalom Crossing into the Strip every day.
More than 100 vehicles were believed to have been brought into the Strip over the previous nine months “for use by Hamas,” specifically its military arm, security officials said.
According to the Shin Bet, members of the smuggling ring would break the cars down into parts and hide the pieces inside cargo heading into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
In one such attempt at the crossing, however, these dismantled and concealed vehicles were spotted and confiscated.
Israel has maintained a naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip since the terror group violently took over the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the measure is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons from overseas.
The Defense Ministry’s Crossing Authority also keeps a close watch on the trucks bearing humanitarian aid and consumer products that enter Gaza — sometimes hundreds a day — in order to monitor and track the goods entering the Strip and prevent them from winding up in the hands of terrorist groups.