ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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Shin Bet: 4 Israelis arrested as part of Hezbollah ‘weapons smuggling ring’

Residents of Kafr Qasim and Lod were recruited by Iran-backed terror group ‘for the purpose of distributing unusual illegal weapons to various parties,’ security agency says

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

This handout image released August 24, 2023 shows four suspects arrested for ties to Hezbollah and smuggling weapons into Israel (from top): Muhammed Issa, Nuh Assam, Jalal Khursa, and Ahmed Issa. Left: An explosive device seized during their arrests in July. (Shin Bet)
This handout image released August 24, 2023 shows four suspects arrested for ties to Hezbollah and smuggling weapons into Israel (from top): Muhammed Issa, Nuh Assam, Jalal Khursa, and Ahmed Issa. Left: An explosive device seized during their arrests in July. (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency revealed on Thursday that in July, four Israeli citizens were arrested for suspected ties to the Hezbollah terror group, and were allegedly involved in smuggling Iranian-made explosive devices into the country.

According to the Shin Bet, three residents of the northern Arab town of Kafr Qasim were arrested over suspicions they had smuggled into Israel “a large number of quality weapons.” The agency said two Iranian-made explosive devices, among other weapons, were seized during their arrest.

In a separate raid in the central city of Lod, security forces arrested another Israeli planning to use a similar explosive device for a criminal-related bombing.

“The Shin Bet investigation revealed that Hezbollah worked to recruit and operate an infrastructure of smugglers in Israel for the purpose of distributing unusual illegal weapons to various parties, including criminal elements,” the agency said in a statement.

The Shin Bet named the suspects as Jalal Khursa, 28, Ahmed Issa, 30, and Muhammed Issa, 39, from Kafr Qasim, and Nuh Assam, 30, from Lod. They were indicted Wednesday on various weapons offenses, prompting the agency to publicize details of the investigation.

An image released by the Shin Bet showed one of the explosive devices, which resembled a Claymore mine.

“This affair once again illustrates the efforts of terror elements from Hezbollah and Iran to exploit the Arab citizens of Israel for [terror] activities against the state,” a senior Shin Bet official said.

“It also emerged in the investigation that the line between [terror] and criminal [activity] is extremely thin,” the official added.

Hezbollah has been accused in the past of being involved in weapons and drug smuggling attempts from Lebanon into Israel.

Police officials have previously warned that arms smuggled into the country, heading to criminal organizations in the Arab community, would also be available for terror attacks in the event of a surge in violence between Jews and Arabs.

There have been calls in recent months for the Shin Bet to step in to assist police with cracking down on a deadly crime surge in Arab communities, as well as other criminal activity.

The agency is already tasked with assisting the military and police in foiling the smuggling of weapons into Israel, as illegal firearms, or explosives, could also be used for terror, and terror groups are sometimes involved in smuggling attempts.

The vast majority of illegal guns in Israel and the West Bank are thought to have been smuggled into the country via Jordan, with far fewer attempts from Lebanon.

In late July, the military foiled an unusual weapons smuggling attempt from Jordan. The type of weapon and its origins were not cleared for publication amid the ongoing investigation.

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