Israeli security forces arrested a Bedouin Israeli man suspected of smuggling weapons into Israel from Jordan overnight, confiscating 63 handguns, the military and police said Thursday morning.
According to the Israel Police, the Magen anti-smuggling unit had been running an undercover investigation of a smuggling ring involved in bringing firearms over the border into Israel.
Police officers and troops in the Israel Defense Forces had been operating along the border in recent weeks to ambush members of the ring during smuggling attempts.
Early on Thursday, forces identified a suspicious vehicle driving near the border, just south of the Dead Sea, police said.
Magen officers, Border Police officers, and IDF troops pursued the suspicious vehicle and eventually caught up with it in the northern Arava region of southern Israel.
The driver, a man in his 50s from a Bedouin village in the Yeruham area, was arrested by troops and officers, and the 63 Glock and SIG Sauer handguns he was carrying in three bag were seized, police said.
The bust was one of the largest-ever foiled smuggling attempts from Jordan. In all of 2022, around 500 firearms were seized by Israeli forces on the Jordanian border.
Law enforcement officials have indicated that guns smuggled in from Jordan are often sold to Arab Israelis and West Bank Palestinians, for both criminal and terrorist purposes.
The military and police have stepped up efforts to halt smuggling attempts along the Jordanian border over the past year, and have begun to report some success.
Unlike Israel’s other frontiers — with Egypt, Lebanon and Syria — the border with Jordan is largely open, often without significant fencing, and guarding is limited, making it an easy channel for large-scale smuggling.
Authorities have increasingly sought to crack down on the spread of illegal weapons in the Arab Israeli community, which have been used to carry out a record-breaking number of murders in recent years.