The nine-member cell had been ordering illegal equipment online to allegedly source to terrorist cells based in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, according to Ynet News.
Hundreds of illegal weapons and accessories, including: an M16 and M1 rifle, 130 bullets, 180 cartridges, 11 pistol cartridges, M16 parts ready for assembly, 200 small weapon parts, two weapon sights, several laser scopes for sniper rifles, binoculars, a hatchet and three tactical combat vests.
The smuggling ring had ordered equipment online from undisclosed countries to the Ashdod Port, and then later sent the illegal cargo by mail to recipients in Balata and Casbah refugee camp in Nablus. A senior IDF official confirmed that “there was nothing suspicious about the packages from the outside”.
The shop owner was the ninth person to be arrested since the raids by Israeli security forces began in December 2016. A wedding dress shop has also been revealed to be run by the main suspects as part of the network.
Israeli customs was first alerted to the cell in the summer of 2016 after a routine check of a package revealed weapon accessories. In 2016, the IDF confiscated 500 weapons, and in 2015 170 weapons were taken from Gaza alone. The IDF have exposed at least 50 weapon manufacturing factories as part of their fight against illegal equipment.
The senior IDF officer said that the ring was unlikely to be Hamas, stating: “Hamas works differently, they use weapons that they know and the people they know and trust. We deal with Hamas every day, in every way”.
He added: “People in the West Bank know where to buy weapons, it’s a big problem. At the rate we are seeing now, we will surpass [2016’s] number of seized weapons in 2017”.