Israeli security and customs officials foiled an attempt to smuggle several tons of ammonium chloride into the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, Israel’s Tax Authority said Tuesday.
Ammonium chloride’s primary use is in fertilizers, but it can also be used to manufacture explosives.
Some four tons of the chemical — enough to make hundreds of rockets, according to Israeli security officials — were found buried in salt shipments to the Gaza Strip that were making their way through the Nitzana crossing between Israel and Egypt in early April.
Sacks of the compound were found buried in some 36 tons of salt.
According to the Tax Authority, officials grew suspicious when an importer linked to the Hamas terror group that rules Gaza placed an order for the unusually large amount of salt.
“Ammonium chloride is defined as a dual-use substance and its passage into the Gaza Strip requires a permit since it is liable to be used by Gaza-based terrorist organizations – such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad – in the production of long-range rockets,” the Tax Authority said in a statement.
The Nitzana crossing serves as a key entry point into the coastal territory for goods from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt.
The Shin Bet believes the importer is a Gazan “with ties to the Hamas military wing,” who “sought to bring the material into the Strip for use in Hamas’s production facilities,” the statement said.
“This case underscores the activity of Gaza-based terrorist organizations in smuggling dual-use materials disguised as goods destined for the civilian population and reconstruction projects.”
The incident was viewed in Israel “with utmost gravity,” the statement said.
It said “dozens of attempts to smuggle items and materials that are prohibited from importation into the Gaza Strip – such as sulfuric acid, diving suits, rocket propulsion fuel components, polyurethane, sulfur, fiberglass rolls and specially coarse coal for use in iron smelters and metalwork – and which are suspected of being for use by local terrorist organizations” have been thwarted by Israeli security and customs agencies.