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Shin Bet nabs Israelis accused of smuggling Iranian bombs

The affair illustrates Hezbollah's and Tehran's efforts to "exploit the Arab citizens of Israel," said a Shin Bet official.

A Hezbollah flag in Lebanon, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, June 27, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
A Hezbollah flag in Lebanon, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, June 27, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed on Thursday that the security forces last month arrested four Arab Israelis on suspicion of smuggling Iranian-made explosives from Lebanon into Israel.

The suspects were named as Galal Harsa, 28, Ahmed Issa, 30, and Muhammad Issa, 39, from the central Israeli city of Kafr Qasim, located 12 miles east of Tel Aviv. During a raid in Lod, 9.5 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, officers apprehended the fourth suspect, identified as Noah Easem, 30.

The men were allegedly part of a criminal ring and smuggled the Iranian explosive devices into the country on behalf of Hezbollah, Tehran’s Lebanese terror proxy. According to the indictment, one of the men had plans to use the bomb for a criminal plot.

Hezbollah is said to have recruited the four suspects to operate an elaborate smuggling network in the Jewish state, which was also used to distribute illegal drugs to criminal groups.

Hezbollah’s involvement in the drug industry involves the production of illicit drugs in factories in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahieh, Lebanon’s eastern Baalbek region and Aleppo in Syria.

“This affair once again illustrates the efforts of terrorist elements from Hezbollah and Iran to exploit the Arab citizens of Israel for security activities against the state. The investigation also revealed that there’s a thin line between security and criminal activities,” a senior Shin Bet official said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “eliminate crime in the Arab sector” amid ongoing violence in the minority population. On Tuesday, an Israeli Arab mayoral candidate was gunned down along with three others in the Western Galilee town of Abu Snan.

At a meeting chaired by Netanyahu the next day, it was decided that the Shin Bet “will assist the Israel Police in its operations against the criminal organizations in regard to the local elections, as per its responsibilities, according to law.”

“Every citizen of Israel must feel secure and not under the shadow of the threat of internal terrorism,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have also charged Iran with orchestrating the most recent surge in Palestinian terrorism, which saw three Israelis killed and one seriously wounded in just under 72 hours.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, spoke with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziad al-Nakhala and Sheikh Naim Qassem, second in command of Hezbollah, in a series of phone calls in recent weeks, according to Iranian media reports.

“We are very pleased with your recent victories, and hope for these victories to continue,” Velayati told Haniyeh. “Whatever effort the Zionist regime puts into preserving itself is met with defeat, and it will eventually be faced with more challenges and frustrations.”

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