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Israelis suspected of delivering dangerous supplies to Hamas

Shin Bet arrests 3, including resident of a town bordering Gaza, for smuggling millions’ worth of construction materials

A Palestinian policeman stands near trucks loaded with cement that entered the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)
A Palestinian policeman stands near trucks loaded with cement that entered the Gaza Strip from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 25, 2014. (Photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)

Law enforcement officials have arrested three Israelis suspected 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 via the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Of the merchandise allegedly supplied by the men to Hamas, officials believe that the pipes were destined for use in the production of missiles, while the concrete could enable the group to rebuild attack tunnels into Israel that were destroyed during Israel’s war with Hamas over the summer.

In addition, the gang allegedly transferred millions of shekels’ worth of electronic devices, generators, tracking equipment, engines and communication cables.

According to allegations released by the Shin Bet security agency on Monday, the Israelis, one of whom was a resident of an agricultural village that borders the Strip, set up a front company to cloak the transfer of illegal materials to a Hamas middleman at the crossing, who then delivered them directly to the terror group.

Two businessmen from the Tel Aviv area allegedly funneled the materials to a warehouse owned by Michael Peretz of Moshav Mivtahim in the Eshkol region, where they were then loaded onto trucks and dispatched to Gaza. The trio were arrested in early February, the Shin Bet said.

Indictments filed at the Beersheba District Court against the accused on Monday listed multiple charges, including contacting a foreign agent, aiding a terror group in its war against Israel, facilitating the transfer of illegal goods to terror groups, money laundering and tax fraud amounting to millions of dollars.

Mugshots of suspects both in Gaza and Israel accused of transferring illegal materials to the Hamas terror group (clockwise, from top left): Akram Yassin of Gaza, Nagi Za'arab of Khan Yunis, Michael Peretz of Mivtahim, Hasan Sharafi of Gaza, Khaled Lobed of Gaza, Riad Masharaui of Gaza, and Ah Hakim Shabir of Gaza (photo credit: Shin Bet)
Mugshots of suspects both in Gaza and Israel accused of transferring illegal materials to the Hamas terror group (clockwise, from top left): Akram Yassin of Gaza, Nagi Za’arab of Khan Yunis, Michael Peretz of Mivtahim, Hasan Sharafi of Gaza, Khaled Lobed of Gaza, Riad Masharaui of Gaza, and Ah Hakim Shabir of Gaza (photo credit: Shin Bet)

Twenty-six suspects in all were questioned by security officials over the course of the investigation, including Palestinians. Six residents of Gaza were also indicted in the affair. It was unclear how they were arrested.

Police said that the suspects knew that the materials they transferred to Gaza were destined for Hamas but continued with the deals because of the high profits they were raking in. Security officials believe that Hamas acquired over $30 million in equipment through the middleman at Kerem Shalom.

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 transfer of patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals.

Over the course of the conflict with Israel last summer, 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 as part of the rebuilding effort in the wake of the war, but says that in Hamas’s hands, large amounts of concrete and piping would be diverted to military projects.

Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Jelin expressed shock over the news that Peretz, a local resident, was suspected of aiding the terror group over the border, given that the surrounding towns have borne the brunt of Hamas’s mortar and rocket attacks for over a decade.

“If the suspicions are proven correct and the accused did indeed cooperate with Hamas, then I see it as a grave betrayal of Israel, the residents of the council and members of the community in which he lives,” Jelin, who is running for Knesset with the centrist Yesh Atid party, told Channel 2.

“I expect the legal authorities to act to the full extent of the law and without compromise against those who betrayed and endangered the lives of their friends in a vile act, for financial gain,” he said.

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