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Israel uncovers attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza by sea

Israel’s security agency announced that a Gaza fisherman was arrested last month attempting to smuggle rocket parts to Hamas by sea.

Shin Bet said the arrest came after Israel had extended the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza coast from six to nine nautical miles, in a move to help local fisherman. In a joint operation between the Shin Bet, the Israel Navy and Israel Police, 39-year-old Salim Gamal Hassan Na’aman, from the Shati Refugee Camp, was arrested after his boat suspiciously “deviated from the approved sailing area,” according to a Shin Bet statement.

Under interrogation, Na’aman admitted to being part of a naval smuggling ring and had helped bring weapons and “materials used in the production of rockets, like fiberglass resin” into the Gaza Strip. He also revealed details of Hamas’ smuggling capabilities and operations, often bringing banned materials into Gaza from Egypt.

The Shin Bet statement said: “The information revealed in this interrogation, along with the interrogations of the other Hamas terror operatives who have been arrested recently, reveal another aspect of the numerous efforts made by Hamas in order to prepare itself for advancing its violent terrorist actions.” It added, in reference to the recent extension of the fishing zone: “This time, it’s through taking advantage of the relief provided by Israel for the population of Gazan fisherman.”

Although arrests at sea are rare, Israeli authorities have uncovered numerous attempts to smuggle weapons and dangerous materials into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Earlier this month, Israeli authorities intercepted a massive Gaza-bound shipment of ammonium chloride, which is typically used in large quantities to propel rockets. Israel places restrictions on some goods entering the Gaza Strip to prevent Hamas from importing materials used for armaments and military infrastructure. Hamas is thought to be replenishing its arsenal of rockets, while it openly admits to rebuilding the complex network of tunnels designed to attack Israel.