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IDF shutters 3 alleged West Bank gunsmithing operations

In crackdown on illegally manufactured weapons, army seizes machinery, gun parts in Hebron region; 6 Palestinians arrested overnight

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli troops shut down three workshops believed to have been used to illegally manufacture guns in the Hebron region early Wednesday morning, as part of an ongoing crackdown on the weapons trade in the West Bank, the army said.

In a joint operation by the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service, the soldiers confiscated equipment and gun parts from the workshops, before sealing off the doors, the army said.

No arrests were made in connection with the alleged weapon manufacturing operations, an IDF spokesperson said.

So far in 2017, the army has located and shuttered 12 such workshops and seized over 110 guns, the IDF said Wednesday.

IDF soldiers seal off a workshop suspected of being used to manufacture weapons illegally in the West Bank on March 29, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF soldiers seal off a workshop suspected of being used to manufacture weapons illegally in the West Bank on March 29, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

That figure puts the army on track to match, if not exceed, its efforts from the year before, in which forces shut down 43 alleged gunsmithing operations and confiscated over 450 weapons.

For the past 15 months, the IDF has set its sights on the illegal gun market in the West Bank, focusing on its sources — gun makers and sellers, rather than gun owners, for instance — in an attempt to prevent terror attacks.

The effort has not yet significantly curbed the number of shooting attacks perpetrated against Israeli civilians and soldiers, but has sent the prices of illegal guns skyrocketing. The cost of a homemade weapons tripled over the course of 2016, an intelligence officer in the army’s West Bank division told reporters in January.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested an alleged Hamas operative and five Palestinians suspected of taking part in so-called “popular terrorism,” a catch-all term denoting rock throwing and participating in violent protests.

The suspected Hamas member was arrested in Aqraba in the northern West Bank.

Two of the alleged rock throwers were arrested in Usarin, south of Nablus; another two were arrested in Tuqua, in the central West Bank; and the fifth was arrested in Bethlehem, the army said.

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