An Israeli citizen was found guilty Sunday of heading a cross-border smuggling ring that transferred thousands of tons of concrete, piping, metals and electronic equipment directly from Israel to the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip.
Michael Peretz, a resident of the Mivtahim agricultural village in the Eshkol region that borders the Strip, was convicted by the Beersheba District Court for a series of crimes that judges said “damaged the security of the state.”
Among the charges, Peretz was found guilty of contacting a foreign agent, facilitating the transfer of illegal goods to terror groups, money laundering and tax fraud amounting to millions of dollars. He was, however, cleared of the most serious charge — “aiding a terror group in its war against Israel.”
According to allegations released by the Shin Bet security agency after his arrest in 2015, Peretz, along with two other Israelis, set up a front company to cloak the transfer of illegal materials to a Hamas middleman at the Kerem Shalom crossing, who then delivered them directly to the terror group.
Of the merchandise allegedly supplied by the men to Hamas between 2013 and 2015, prosecutors said that the pipes were destined for use in the production of rockets, while the concrete enabled the group to rebuild attack tunnels into Israel that were destroyed during the 2014 war.
In addition to building materials, the gang led by Peretz allegedly transferred millions of shekels’ worth of electronic devices, generators, tracking equipment, engines and communication cables.
Judges said that Peretz knew that the materials he transferred to Gaza were destined for Hamas but continued with the deals because of the high profits he was raking in.
The Kerem Shalom border crossing is one of three crossings from Israel into the coastal strip, which mostly facilitates the transfer of humanitarian aid and medical equipment, as well as the passage of patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals.
Over the course of the conflict with Israel in 2014, Hamas utilized an elaborate tunnel system underneath the Israeli border to launch raids on IDF soldiers stationed outside the Strip.
Israel allows small quantities of construction materials into the Strip, saying that in Hamas’s hands, large amounts of concrete and piping would be diverted to military projects.