Israel says it foiled bid to smuggle Iran-made explosives over Jordan border

Censor okays publication of new details of July incident near Ashdot Ya’akov; officials suspect weapons were brought in for use by terror groups in the West Bank

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

File: View of the border between Israel and Jordan on the Route 90 highway in the Jordan Valley, July 6, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90, file)
File: View of the border between Israel and Jordan on the Route 90 highway in the Jordan Valley, July 6, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90, file)

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday cleared for publication that security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle Iranian-made explosives into Israel from Jordan last month.

The smuggling attempt was thwarted by troops of the IDF’s 417th Regional Brigade and members of the Matilan Border Police counterterrorism unit on July 24 in the Jordan Valley just south of the Sea of Galilee, near the Ashdot Ya’akov kibbutz.

Initially, few details were permitted for publication by the Military Censor, including the type of contraband seized by the forces, and its origins. On Sunday, the censor allowed for media to publish that troops had seized Iranian-made explosives.

Authorities believed the explosives were being spirited in for use by terror groups in the West Bank. The Shin Bet security agency was still investigating how the Iranian-made explosives reached the Israel-Jordan border.

Weapons smuggling is a constant challenge for Israel, along its long, porous eastern border with Jordan, and in the West Bank. Officials believe most guns are being used for underworld crime, and have vowed to crack down as part of an effort to end years of bloodshed in the Arab community.

The military and police have stepped up efforts to halt smuggling attempts along the Jordanian border over the past two years, and have begun to report some success.

A Magen unit police officer inspects weapons seized by Israeli security forces during a gun-smuggling attempt along the border with Jordan on March 11, 2022. (Israel Police)

According to police data, security authorities have seized 506 handguns, 24 assault rifles, and eight explosive devices, in 26 separate smuggling attempts on the Jordan border since the beginning of the year.

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

Last week, the Shin Bet revealed that in July, four Israeli citizens were arrested for suspected ties to the Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, and were allegedly involved in smuggling Iranian-made explosive devices into the country.

This handout image released August 24, 2023, shows an Iranian-made explosive device seized during the arrest of four Israeli suspects in July. (Shin Bet)

An image released by the Shin Bet showed one of the explosive devices, which resembled a Claymore mine.

The agency said those explosives were intended to be used in underworld attacks, rather than for terrorism.

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