3 Israelis jailed for smuggling goods to Gaza
02 March 2015, 15:23
Jerusalem - Three Israelis were on Monday charged with smuggling goods into the Gaza Strip knowing they would be used by Hamas to bolster its military infrastructure, officials said.
Micha Peretz, Yehoram Alon and another man whose name has not been released were indicted at Beersheba District Court for trade worth millions of dollars with a Palestinian merchant in Gaza, while fully aware he was transferring the materials to Hamas.
The alleged smuggling took place over the past two years but intensified prior to and after last summer, when Israel fought a deadly 50-day war with Hamas militants in Gaza, court documents showed.
According to a statement from Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency, the materials included iron plates, cement and steel cables for building tunnels; pipes for making rockets and mortars, and electronic materials for military communications.
Israel keeps a tight watch on merchandise transferred into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing to prevent Hamas from getting hold of so-called dual-use materials that could be used for building fortifications or attacking the Jewish state.
The entry of such goods have been severely restricted under an eight-year Israeli blockade, although they are allowed in for certain approved international projects.
A Shin Bet spokesman told AFP the smuggling had intensified last summer as Egypt stepped up efforts to demolish cross-border tunnels into Gaza, as well as after the seven-week war which ended in late August, leaving much of the tiny enclave in ruins.
He said some of the goods, which were on Israel's approved list, were transferred there openly, with the Gaza-based merchants transferring them to Hamas. Other materials which were on the banned list were concealed inside legitimate cargos.
Shin Bet also confirmed it had arrested six Gaza merchants in connection with the smuggling racket over the past three months, all of whom were charged at an Israeli court.
According to Peretz's charge sheet, their main contact was Osama Zoarob.
Although Israeli officials had warned the three in May 2014 against doing business with Zoarob over his ties with Hamas, the two sides simply set up a new company run by his brother Naji, who ultimately continued to pass on the materials.
Peretz, who lives in a small community near the Gaza border which came under heavy fire during the summer war, was arrested last month.
He was charged on Monday with a series of offences, including contact with a foreign element, aiding an enemy in time of war and funding terror.
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