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IDF, police seize 26 pistols from gun smuggler along Jordan border near Jericho

Suspect arrested after brief chase near Palestinian town of al-Auja; military says ‘significant rise’ in weapon smuggling attempts in past year

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Weapons seized by security forces near al-Auja in the Jordan Valley, after an alleged gun-smuggling attempt over the border with Jordan on August 29, 2022. (Israel Police)
Weapons seized by security forces near al-Auja in the Jordan Valley, after an alleged gun-smuggling attempt over the border with Jordan on August 29, 2022. (Israel Police)

Israeli security forces arrested a man suspected of smuggling weapons into the West Bank from Jordan early Monday morning, confiscating 26 handguns in the process, the military and police said.

The Israel Defense Forces and Border Police said forces received intelligence about smuggling over the border and identified a suspicious vehicle near the Palestinian town of al-Auja, north of Jericho.

After a brief chase, the driver was arrested and the 26 handguns he had in his possession were seized, police said.

On Sunday, the IDF said there had been a “significant rise” in attempts to smuggle weapons into Israel and the West Bank from Jordan, counting more than 300 guns seized since the beginning of the year. In 2020 and 2021 combined, 300 firearms were seized along the eastern frontier, the IDF said.

Law enforcement officials have indicated guns smuggled in from Jordan are often sold to Arab Israelis and West Bank Palestinians, for both criminal and terrorist purposes.

The military and police have stepped up efforts to halt smuggling attempts along the Jordanian border in recent months.

View of the border between Israel and Jordan, in the Jordan valley, in the West Bank, on June 17, 2020. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

Unlike Israel’s other frontiers — with Egypt, Lebanon and Syria — its border with Jordan is largely open, often without significant fencing, and is relatively unguarded, making it an easy channel for large-scale smuggling.

The IDF said Sunday that it had beefed up defenses on the Jordanian border, as well as increased its surveillance efforts and improved its means of transportation, in order to better foil smuggling attempts.

In the last year, the IDF, police, and Shin Bet security agency have established joint operation rooms enabling them to “produce accurate intelligence in real time and formulate a united and joint operative response to the challenges and smuggling attempts,” the military said.

Authorities have increasingly sought to crack down on the spread of illegal weapons in the Arab Israeli community, which have been used to carry out a record-breaking number of murders in recent years.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, a group lobbying against violence in the Arab community, last year 125 Arabs were killed in Israel in community violence — an all-time record. Since the beginning of 2022, another 72 have been killed in incidents of violence.

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