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Israel says it foiled Hamas attempt to smuggle arms production parts via sea

Military says top smuggler previously jailed in Israel was arrested as he and two others made their way toward Egypt’s Sinai

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

Israeli troops spot a suspected smuggling boat making its way from the Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula on April 8, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops spot a suspected smuggling boat making its way from the Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula on April 8, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapon production materials from the Sinai Peninsula through the Mediterranean Sea to the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip several weeks ago, the military said Wednesday.

Three Palestinians, including one previously jailed in Israel for similar offenses, were arrested when Israeli troops stopped a vessel allegedly involved.

Details of the operation, which occurred on April 8, were barred from publication until Wednesday.

The Israel Defense Forces said the operation was a “joint intelligence and operational effort by Israeli Navy forces and the Shin Bet security service, along with Military Intelligence.”

According to the military, in the evening hours of April 8, after receiving intelligence information, troops halted the vessel as it attempted to cross into Egypt’s territorial waters from the Gaza Strip. The three men on board were taken to the Shin Bet for further questioning.

One of the three was Mahmoud Bakr, whom the military identified as a senior smuggler who worked with a number of terror groups in the Strip. Bakr was indicted in June 2020 after he was arrested during a similar attempt. He was jailed in Israel for a year before being released to the Hamas-run coastal enclave.

The other two smugglers were named as Ahmed Ismail Fasih and Mahmud Nahad Silawi, fishermen and residents of Gaza’s coastal area, who were also involved in smuggling activities, the IDF said.

Officials did not detail the specific “prohibited equipment” the three allegedly sought to smuggle to Gaza, only that it was intended for Hamas and “in full coordination and directed by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip.”

“We hit a significant route that was used to transfer components to manufacture weapons for terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” said Col. Eli Sukholitsky, commander of the Navy’s Ashdod base. “The IDF works constantly to prevent the intensification of terrorist organizations and their infrastructure,” he added.

Over the years, Israel has stopped multiple attempts to smuggle military gear and weapons into the Strip, both through the sea and via shipments entering the Palestinian territory.

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip since the terror group violently took over the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the measure is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons from overseas. Humanitarian aid is transferred to the Palestinian enclaves through Israeli land crossings.

As part of the blockade, fishing boats and other seagoing vessels are required to stay close to the coast.

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