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Soldiers nab Gazans sneaking into Israel with grenade, knives

Four suspects collared after being spied crossing security fence; motive unclear

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Two knives and a pair of pliers that were in the possession of a Palestinian man who was one of four suspects who crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on February 1, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Two knives and a pair of pliers that were in the possession of a Palestinian man who was one of four suspects who crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on February 1, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli soldiers arrested four Palestinian suspects, one of them armed, who entered Israel from the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, the army said.

According to the military, one of the suspects was carrying a grenade and two knives when he was arrested.

While it has not been uncommon for Palestinians to illegally cross into Israel from Gaza in recent years, it is generally done by individuals or in pairs, rarely in groups as large as on Thursday.

An army spokesperson said the suspects were under IDF surveillance from before they crossed the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip.

They were arrested a short time after they entered Israeli territory, he said.

The suspects’ intentions were not immediately clear. There have been cases of Gazans entering Israel with weapons not to carry out attacks, but in order to be arrested and sent to prison, rather than remain in the beleaguered coastal enclave, which is run by the Hamas terrorist group.

“The suspects were apprehended and transferred to security forces for further questioning,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

According to figures revealed to the Hebrew Walla news site, in both 2016 and 2017 approximately 60 Palestinians entered Israel from Gaza.

As of Thursday, 12 Palestinians have infiltrated into Israel in 2018, raising concerns that this may be a growing trend in light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The security fence contains a bevy of sensors and cameras to support the large number of soldiers who regularly patrol the area. Infiltrators are typically caught within moments, though there have been cases of suspects evading capture for several hours.

The military is currently constructing a new Gaza barrier, which includes both an underground portion designed to thwart tunneling efforts by terrorist groups, as well as a high steel fence meant to prevent aboveground infiltrations.

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