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Israeli gets 7 years for smuggling supplies to Hamas for tunnels, weapons

Michael Peretz also fined NIS 200,000 for facilitating transfer of illegal goods to Gaza terror group, money laundering and tax fraud

A Palestinian policeman waves on a truck as it enters through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip on September 1, 2020, after a Qatari-mediated deal with Israel. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Illustrative: A Palestinian policeman waves on a truck as it enters through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip on September 1, 2020, after a Qatari-mediated deal with Israel. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

An Israeli citizen was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in prison after he was found guilty 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 additionally fined NIS 200,000 (approximately $60,000) after he was convicted by Beersheba District Court earlier this year of a series of crimes that judges said “damaged national security.”

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.

Michael Peretz obscures his face during a hearing on March 2, 2015 at Beersheba District Court (Screen grab/Ynet)

Of the merchandise allegedly supplied by the men to Hamas between 2013 and 2015, prosecutors said that the pipes were to be used 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 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.

Photo from inside a Hamas attack tunnel that the Israeli military destroyed in airstrikes on May 29, 2018. The army said the tunnel extended into Egypt and from there 900 meters into Israeli territory (Courtesy IDF)

Over the course of its conflict with Israel in 2014, Hamas utilized an elaborate tunnel system underneath the 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.

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