Israeli accused of helping sneak balloons into Gaza, possibly for arson attacks
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Israeli accused of helping sneak balloons into Gaza, possibly for arson attacks

David Cohen arrested on charges of illegally purchasing hundreds of thousands of balloons on behalf of Palestinian businessman, with plans to send them to the Strip

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

Balloons that were allegedly illegally imported into Israel with plans to smuggle them into the Gaza Strip, apparently for use in airborne arson attacks, in May 2019. (Tax Authority)
Balloons that were allegedly illegally imported into Israel with plans to smuggle them into the Gaza Strip, apparently for use in airborne arson attacks, in May 2019. (Tax Authority)

An Israeli man was arrested this week on charges of illegally importing hundreds of thousands of balloons on behalf of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, apparently for use in airborne arson attacks on southern Israel.

David Cohen, 50, is accused of importing the balloons through his company, DC Logistics, Ltd., on behalf of Hebron-based Palestinian businessman Tahsin Majd Ahmad Dufash, and without informing customs officials of the true purchasers or that they were bound for the Gaza Strip.

“This is in complete contradiction of customs procedures,” the Tax Authority said in a statement.

Israeli customs laws require importers to indicate that goods are being sold to Palestinians in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

For over a year, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have used balloons, latex condoms and kites to fly incendiary devices and explosives into southern Israel, where they have caused large amounts of damage to property and grasslands, as well as some minor injuries.

On Wednesday, several fires were started in the Eshkol region of southern Israel by at least 10 airborne arson devices.

Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in the Eshkol region of southern Israel that was sparked by a balloon-borne incendiary device from the Gaza Strip on May 22, 2019. (Eli Cohen/Fire and Rescue Services)

The latex balloons imported by Cohen’s company were colored red, green, black and white — the colors of the Palestinian flag.

“The special police unit of the Ashdod customs office collected intelligence that indicated the company DC Logistics, Ltd., which is owned by the suspect, planned to import a massive quantity of balloons and deliver them immediately to a Hebron resident, who — according to the suspicion — would eventually transfer them in batches to Gaza,” the Tax Authority said in a statement.

Balloons that were allegedly illegally imported into Israel with plans to smuggle them into the Gaza Strip, apparently for use in airborne arson attacks, in May 2019. (Tax Authority)

Cohen was brought in for questioning on Monday. According to the Tax Authority, during his interrogation, he “implicated himself in the crime.”

According to the Tax Authority, Cohen’s company acted as cover for the true purchasers.

“The suspect did not order the goods, he did not determine their quality or type, he did not pay for them and the entire purpose of his actions were to be camouflage for the final destination of the goods,” it said in a statement.

The Tax Authority said Cohen’s company’s name did not even appear on the boxes in which the balloons were shipped, rather Dufash’s name was printed on them.

The Tax Authority said it believed that the purchasers hoped that by failing to disclose the ultimate destination of the balloons and due to Cohen’s Israeli citizenship it would be able to avoid security inspections.

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