A two-year undercover operation has resulted in the arrest of some of the most high-profile gun smugglers and illegal weapons dealers in Israel, police announced on Tuesday.

Sixty-five suspects were arrested in raids on 25 localities across Israel, breaking up a large gun-running network, police said in a statement.

According to available details, some 1,600 police officers, including Border Police and special forces units, were involved in the operation, which resulted in the seizure of numerous illegal weapons.

The operation was made possible by a confidential informant who had been sentenced to prison for prior involvement in organized crime.

As part of the sting, the agent purchased firearms from Arab weapons dealers, including 53 rifles, two machine guns, two explosive devices and large quantities of ammunition. Overall, the agent carried out 48 purchases, with a total value of some 4 million shekels ($1.3 million).

So far, 78 gun dealers have been indicted.

Authorities believe that the majority of the illegal weapons were smuggled into Israel from Jordan and Lebanon, while some are believed to have been stolen from Israel Defense Forces bases.

“We are fighting crime and violence in the Arab sector with every means at our disposal,” Northern District Police Commander Shimon Lavi told reporters on Tuesday.

“This is a war over the future of everyday lives and personal safety of every Israeli citizen. It’s a war against criminal elements’ efforts to infiltrate local authorities in an attempt to get their hands on public funds; and it’s a war against the extortion of small business owners in the private sector,” said Lavi.

“There are organizations that are trying to get their hands on a sizable portion of private and public economic activity. We’re talking about vast sums of money and if we don’t take action they will only get stronger,” he continued.

“We cannot allow crime to pay. We have to forge on and increase our pressure on these criminals,” he said.

Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Barlev commended the police.

“We have defined dealing with crime and weapons on the Arab street as a major and national goal,” he said in a statement.

“The results of ]this] operation are the fruit of a lot of hard work, determination, creativity and perseverance.”

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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