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Israel seizes thousands of snails from foreign workers

The quarantined pests can make humans ill and damage aquatic plants.

Filopaludina snails. Credit: AquaFood/X.
Filopaludina snails. Credit: AquaFood/X.

Israeli authorities seized thousands of live snails from two foreign workers arriving in the country over the last 48 hours, the Agricultural Ministry said on Sunday.

A combined five kilos of snails were confiscated from the workers arriving from Thailand, apparently for personal consumption. Snails are commonly eaten in Southeast Asia.

The snails are of the freshwater Filopaludina type of the Viviparidae family, which is on the Ministry of Agriculture’s list of quarantined pests. The snails can transmit diseases to humans and can cause damage to aquatic plants.

Despite the ongoing war against Hamas, some 12,000 foreign workers have arrived in Israel, an Interior Ministry official told Knesset lawmakers in late December.

Inbal Mashash, the director of the Population and Immigration Authority’s Foreign Workers Administration, also said that the first 100 of an eventual 10,000 workers had arrived from Sri Lanka and that Israeli officials are in talks with other countries to attract more laborers, primarily in construction and agriculture. Among the countries Israel has reached out to are India, Kenya, Moldova, Ecuador and Malawi.

Before the war, the majority of the foreign laborers working in agriculture were from Thailand. But 10,000 working on farms near Gaza and the Lebanese border went home. Others working in safer areas such as the Jordan Valley and central Israel also opted to return to Thailand after Hamas terrorists killed 39 Thai workers and took 32 hostage.

Israeli agriculture is facing staggering losses in production and manpower. Before Oct. 7, Israel had 29,900 foreigners, mostly Thais, working in farms, orchards, greenhouses and packing plants. Nearly all returned to Thailand.

Farmers also employed 10,000-20,000 Palestinians depending on the season, but many are currently denied entry into Green Line Israel.

Last March, Israeli authorities busted a massive black-market operation featuring rare and exotic animal species, including red-eared sliders—the most popular pet turtle in the United States and one of the most popular pets around the world—and the Boiga genus of rear-fanged, mildly venomous snakes, which are commonly known as cat-eyed or cat snakes.

In August, a Madagascar court sentenced an Israeli man to two years in prison for attempting to smuggle dozens of rare tortoises out of the country.

The 39-year-old from Beitar Illit, south of Jerusalem, was arrested two months earlier at the airport after 59 rare tortoises were found in his possession.

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