The Shin Bet security agency announced Thursday it has arrested a number of Arab Israelis and Palestinians from the West Bank who tried to smuggle cellphones to security prisoners using a drone.
The arrests were made throughout November, according to the Shin Bet, who said some of the suspects were involved in other attempts between 2016-2018 to smuggle phones to security prisoners in exchange for money from terror groups.
“The smuggling was directed from the prison by terrorist elements known to the security forces,” the security agency said in a statement.
The Shin Bet said a number of the suspects were also behind a failed attempt in October to smuggle dozens of phones into Nafha Prison in southern Israel using a drone.
The suspects underwent training to learn how to operate the drone and were in contact with prisoners regarding where the airborne device would drop off the package carrying 60 phones, according to the Shin Bet.
“The phones that were captured were meant for security prisoners from terror organizations serving long prison sentences for their involvement in attacks and promoting terror activity,” the security agency said.
It also said security prisoners were engaged in efforts to direct terror attacks from behind prison walls, such as kidnappings that could be leveraged into a prisoner swap, and therefore the “smuggling of telephones of this kind puts a tool in the hands of these same terror operatives.”
Prosecutors from the Central District filed an indictment against the suspects. The Shin Bet did not say what charges they were indicted on.
“The General Security Service, in close cooperation with the Israel Police and Israel Prisons Service, will continue to closely track elements that help terror organizations in prison or outside it and will take the necessary measures to prevent and thwart activity that harms the security of the state,” the Shin Bet said, using its official name.
The announcement by the security agency comes a week after Border Police announced the arrest of a Palestinian teenager who tried to smuggle phones and cellular equipment into a military prison in the West Bank inside of his body.
The arrests follow a number of other foiled attempts to smuggle cellphones into prisons in recent years.
Basel Ghattas, a former MK, was jailed for smuggling cellphones to security prisoners while he was serving as a lawmaker for the Joint (Arab) List party. Footage from a Prisons Service surveillance camera showed the Arab lawmaker passing envelopes to prisoners at the Ketziot Prison in the south. He was eventually sentenced to two years in prison, and began to serve his term in July 2017.