Eight suspected members of a smuggling ring were arrested in a joint operation by security forces and police in April, the Shin Bet security service announced Wednesday.
The eight, all from the Bedouin town of Bir Hadaj in southern Israel, are accused of smuggling drugs across the Israeli-Sinai border and of causing damage to army infrastructure along the border.
From questioning the suspects, security forces say that they were involved in a large-scale well-organized smuggling operation on the night of April 13-14. As part of their operation some of the suspects allegedly damaged the perimeter fence.
The Shin Bet stressed that damaging IDF border infrastructure constitutes a threat to security and is dealt with severely.
The eight were indicted Wednesday in Beersheba District Court. Five of the suspects were charged with serious security offenses.
Bir Hadaj is only about 20 minutes from the border with Egypt, and has long been known to police as a drug-smuggling site.
In February police detained 20 suspects from the town accused of impersonating IDF army border patrols to transport drugs from Egypt.
In a raid police officers discovered two army jeeps, IDF helmets and uniforms, night-vision binoculars, walkie-talkies, along with weapons and ammunition.
On an almost nightly basis, Egyptian drug-runners, most of them Bedouin, come to the 125-mile (200-kilometer) border fence to toss bags of contraband to their Israeli counterparts, who collect the goods in ATVs — or, on a big night, in trucks — and bring them back for distribution, soldiers serving on the border told The Times of Israel last year.