Israeli security forces arrested three men suspected of smuggling weapons into Israel and the West Bank from Jordan in separate incidents, confiscating 32 handguns in the process, the military and police said Sunday.
In the first incident on Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces said soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted two suspects along the border, close to Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud, some seven kilometers (nearly 4.5 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee.
IDF troops and police officers dispatched to the scene arrested the pair, both residents of the northern Arab-majority town of Bi’ina, and seized the 10 handguns in their possession, police said.
It was unclear why the military and police waited several days before announcing the catch.
In the second incident, on Sunday morning, IDF troops and police officers were dispatched to the border after soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted a suspect crossing the Jordan River near the West Bank settlement of Yafit, the military said.
The man, a Palestinian from Jericho, was arrested by troops and officers, and the 22 handguns he was carrying in a bag were seized, police said.
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 — its border with Jordan is largely open, often without significant fencing, and guarding is limited, making it an easy channel for large-scale smuggling.
Separately on Sunday morning, police officers and Israeli troops seized several firearms during a raid in the West Bank city of Hebron, the military and police said.
According to a spokesman for the Israel Police’s West Bank division, officers and troops searched the home of a Palestinian suspect in Hebron, finding three assault rifles, two handguns, and several gun parts.
Police said two Palestinians were arrested at the scene and were taken for further questioning. The IDF said one of the suspects was wanted for questioning by the Shin Bet security agency over alleged involvement in terror activities.
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.
The Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, tallied 116 Arabs killed in apparent homicides in Israel in 2022. In 2021, 125 Arabs were killed in Israel in community violence — an all-time record, topping the previous record of 96, set in 2020.