3 Israelis, 3 Palestinians charged with smuggling air-soft rifles into West Bank

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Three Israelis and three Palestinians are charged with smuggling air-powered rifles into the West Bank, where they were converted into lethal weapons, the Shin Bet security service says.

The alleged ringleader of this operation is an Israeli man from the town of Sderot, Yuri Shaulov, who owned a store that sold these so-called air-soft guns, the Shin Bet says.

Air-soft rifles — generally regarded as children’s toys — are far less dangerous than standard firearms. They typically rely on compressed air to fire a plastic ball down a smooth-bore barrel. However, over the past several years, the Shin Bet has noted that a small industry has sprung up in Israel and the West Bank that specializes in converting these toys into lethal weapons by changing the barrel and the internal mechanism to allow it to hold bullets.

According to the Shin Bet, over the past two years, the primary suspect, Shaulov had sold a number of these air-soft rifles to Palestinians in the West Bank through two Bedouin intermediaries, “despite knowing that it was illegal to sell them in the West Bank and that the weapons that he sold were meant to be converted into proper firearms.”

The Shin Bet does not directly tie the air-soft rifles sold by Shaulov to any terrorist activities, but notes that this type of makeshift weapon has been used for attacks in the past.

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