Israeli security forces arrested five Palestinian men overnight suspected of smuggling guns from Jordan, confiscating eight shotguns in the process, the military said Tuesday.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, four suspects were identified approaching the border in the Jordan Valley by troops operating security cameras. Soldiers and police officers dispatched to the scene arrested the four, and they were found to be in possession of eight shotguns.
A fifth suspect was arrested after a brief chase, Israel Police said Tuesday morning.
The five Palestinian men were taken by police for further questioning.
Police said they had been following a network of smugglers in the area for some time as part of an “undercover investigation.” Monday’s arrest was a joint effort between various police and military units operating in the area.
Law enforcement officials have previously indicated that guns smuggled in from Jordan are often sold to Arab Israelis, for both criminal and terrorist purposes.
The military and police have stepped up efforts to halt smuggling attempts along the Jordanian border in recent months.
Unlike Israel’s other frontiers — with Egypt, Lebanon and Syria — its border with Jordan is largely open, often without significant fencing, and is relatively unguarded, making it an easy channel for large-scale smuggling.
Chief Superintendent Ronen Kalfon, commander of the police anti-smuggling Magen unit, said Monday’s incident was the tenth smuggling attempt it had thwarted this year, with more than 170 weapons seized.
“This is a real arms race and we are burning the midnight oil in an ongoing struggle against this challenge,” Kalfon said.
“It is clear to us that such weapons can easily be used to kill innocents by criminals and terrorists,” he added.
Authorities have increasingly sought to crack down on the unmitigated 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.
According to the Abraham Initiatives, a group lobbying against violence in the Arab community, last year 125 Arabs were killed in Israel in community violence — an all-time record. Since the beginning of 2022, another 67 have been killed in incidents of violence.