IDF says it foiled attempt to smuggle rocket material to Gaza by boat
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IDF says it foiled attempt to smuggle rocket material to Gaza by boat

Four suspects arrested while trying to sail out of Strip, accused of heading for Egypt as part of plan to bring in fiberglass, used in making missiles

An Israeli operation to intercept Gazan boats, on May 11, 2019, in a video released by the IDF on June 7, 2019. (screen capture: IDF)
An Israeli operation to intercept Gazan boats, on May 11, 2019, in a video released by the IDF on June 7, 2019. (screen capture: IDF)

The Israeli military said it foiled an attempt by the Hamas terror group to smuggle material into the Gaza Strip to be used for building rockets.

The army said four suspects were arrested last month after trying to break a maritime blockade on the coastal enclave and reach Egypt in two boats.

The incident occurred on May 11, but was only cleared for publication on Friday.

According to a statement released by the Israel Defense Forces, the four were attempting to reach the coast of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, where they were to pick up 24 drums of fiberglass material.

The army said the material, which is forbidden to import into the Strip, was to be used by Hamas, the terror group that is the de facto ruler of the Strip, to build rockets.

The military released an edited video showing the operation to stop the boats, including a high-speed chase on the water off the Strip.

The four were charged with a raft of terror-related charges, including conspiring to commit murder, according to the military statement.

There was no immediate response from Hamas or Egypt.

A picture taken in Gaza City on May 5, 2019, shows rockets being fired toward Israel. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The alleged smuggling attempt came less than a week after Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the enclave fired almost 700 rockets into Israel during a major flare-up of violence between the sides on May 4 and 5.

This week the Wall Street Journal reported that Hamas had managed to replenish its rocket arsenal back to around 10,000 following the fighting, which saw the group attempt to overwhelm the Iron Dome anti-missile system with large concentrated volleys of rocket fire.

Israel maintains a maritime blockade on the Strip and tightly controls land crossings into the enclave in an attempt to keep Hamas and other terror groups from building up military capabilities.

Palestinian fishing boats are seen in the Mediterranean Sea at the port in Gaza City on May 10, 2019. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

The IDF allows fishermen to venture several kilometers off the coast as part of reported understandings reached with Hamas to keep the restive region calm.

“We have clear maritime borders around the Strip,” Brig. Gen. Yuval Ayalon, who commands the southern naval area of operations, said in a statement. “The borders allow innocent fishermen to make a living, and at the same time halt attempts by terror groups threatening to harm Israeli civilians via use of the sea.”

On Thursday, Israel reduced the allowed fishing zone from 15 nautical miles (27.8 kilometers) off the coast to 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers), according to an Israeli official.

The move, which was in response to several incendiary balloon launches, came a day after Israel had expanded the zone to 15 kilometers.

Saleh al-Ziq, a senior Gaza-based official in the PA Civil Affairs Commission, accused Israel of punishing fishermen for the actions of others.

“Fishing is very important to the livelihood of many people in Gaza. The fishermen use the income they make from selling fish to provide for their family members,” he said. “Why is Israel punishing them for something they did not do?”

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