Israeli officials thwarted an attempt to smuggle wet suits into the Gaza Strip, apparently bound for Hamas’s naval commando unit, the Defense Ministry said Monday, days after an Israeli official warned the terror group was increasingly exploring the possibility of seaborne attacks on Israel.
The ministry’s Crossing Authority, working with the Shin Bet security service, found some 30 professional-grade scuba suits hidden in a shipment of sporting wear that was heading for the coastal enclave through the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
The wet suits came from abroad to an importer in the Palestinian Authority, who forwarded them along to Gaza, “without the required coordination,” the ministry said in a statement.
In an effort to keep scuba gear out of the hands of Hamas, wet suits cannot be imported into the Gaza Strip without a special permit.
“The shipment was confiscated, and an investigation was opened into locating those involved in the smuggling,” the Defense Ministry said.
Last week, a navy officer warned that Hamas was increasingly turning to the sea as a potential path for attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel.
“We see rearming on every level on the sea-front — systems, weapons and trainings. Hamas sees the sea as an option to achieve its aggressive, operational ambitions,” Maj. Irad Shtatar told The Times of Israel.
“In parallel, we are tracking these developments to make sure that we have a response to these threats,” he added.
An attack by the Hamas naval commando unit was carried out during the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge. On July 8, 2014, four Hamas naval commandos swam ashore outside Kibbutz Zikim on Israel’s southern coast.
The frogmen brought with them automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and explosives, the latter of which they used against an Israeli tank, unsuccessfully. Some 40 minutes after they came in from the surf, the Hamas operatives were killed in a combined attack from the sea, ground and air, and the incident came to a close.
Over the past two years, Israel uncovered similar attempts to smuggle wet suits and other scuba gear into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which the Defense Ministry says were bound for Hamas and its frogmen units.