The case underscores how Hamas cynically exploits Israel’s humanitarian approach and how it does not hesitate to endanger the basic interests of the Palestinian public in its efforts to rebuild its Gaza-based military capabilities.
By means of this network, the Hamas purchased and brought into the Gaza Strip, via the Kerem Shalom Crossing, thousands of tons of raw materials that were used in its military installations, to prepare attack tunnels, at its training facilities and for the manufacture of war materiel. In certain instances, the materials that were purchased in Israel were transported from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom Crossing directly to Hamas training bases and installations.
The ISA, in conjunction with the Israel Police and Israel Tax Authority, has so far investigated 26 suspects, including Israeli citizens, who were involved in supplying the materials, storing them and smuggling them through the Kerem Shalom Crossing. The Israel Police and Israel Tax Authority have also investigated additional suspects. Trucks and large quantities of to-be-smuggled materiel were seized.
Severe indictments – including for security offenses – have been filed in Be’er Sheva District Court. Requests have been filed regarding the confiscation of the seized vehicles and materials.
Operation of the network
The Kerem Shalom Crossing provides the only passage for merchandise and goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The State of Israel saw to the regular operation of the Crossing, even during Operation Protective Edge, in order to allow the importation of consumer goods and basic products for the population of Gaza. Terrorists in Gaza, especially Hamas, identified the potential at the Crossing for bringing in materials need to build up their military infrastructures.
Registered Palestinian merchants were used to purchase a range of raw materials and other goods (including – inter alia – iron and various iron goods and products, electrical and electronic equipment, communications equipment, fiber optic cables, drills and other digging equipment, concrete, etc.) for military use. Israeli, foreign and Palestinian Authority-based suppliers supplied the goods. Elements in Israel were, for the most part, used to store the goods. These elements were aware that the goods in question were for the Gaza Strip despite the lack of the necessary permits and either knew or estimated that they were designated for terrorist organizations.
In this manner, large quantities of materials were systematically purchased in Israel and smuggled into the Gaza Strip over a period of time. As routes through Sinai became more difficult, the foregoing route became more valuable to Hamas.
Smuggled goods were frequently hidden among consignments that had received the necessary permits. In one instance, raw materials for use in the manufacture of explosives were hidden in a container of humanitarian equipment.
The case underscores – yet again – how Hamas cynically exploits Israel’s humanitarian approach and how Hamas does not hesitate to endanger the basic interests of the Palestinian public in its efforts to rebuild its Gaza-based military capabilities.
Hamas has invested vast sums in building up its military infrastructure even as its leaders and spokesmen seize every opportunity to bewail the Palestinian public’s dire economic plight.
Israeli security and law-enforcement authorities will tighten the supervision of goods designated for the Gaza Strip and will use all legal means (criminal prosecution, economic sanctions, the confiscation of goods, revocation of permits, etc.) at their disposal to combat smuggling.