IDF soldiers suspected of drug trafficking along Israel's border with Egypt
The suspects, some career officers and others conscript soldiers, are trackers from the Gaza Division and units deployed along the Egyptian border.
Twelve Israel Defense Forces soldiers and junior career officers have been arrested for trafficking in drugs worth some NIS 800,000, according a report released on Monday. The arrest sweep is one of the largest ever in the IDF.
Military Police also believe the suspects passed on detailed information about aspects of the IDF's deployment along the Egyptian border to drug smugglers to enable them to avoid detection.
The suspects, some career officers and others conscript soldiers, are trackers from the Gaza Division and units deployed along the border with Egypt. One tracker is from the Yehuda Division.
Trackers are tasked with examining the ground for evidence that the border has been breached so that the IDF can identify smugglers and terror operatives.
According to the Military Police, a sergeant first class and a conscript soldier were involved in smuggling heroine, cocaine, hashish and ecstasy.
On Friday, some of the suspects were arrested after they were filmed selling two kilograms of heroine worth about NIS 250,000. Other suspects were arrested earlier this week.
According to Lt. Col. Gil Mamon, commander of the Military Police's special investigations unit, on Friday an undercover agent for the unit bought the drugs from one of the suspects on the shoulder of Route 6 near the Kiryat Gat interchange. The drugs were hidden in the wheel of a vehicle after being brought across the Egyptian border. The drug deal was filmed, after which the sellers were arrested.
In addition to the sellers, other soldiers passed on information about the IDF's deployment and the schedule of patrols and ambushes along the border. They gave information via text messages to a Bedouin in Sinai.
The soldiers reported to the Bedouin when patrols would be passing "and anything else that could thwart the smuggling," Mamon said, adding that the smuggling had been going on for a number of months in the area.
Three civilians were also arrested on suspicion of involvement in the smuggling.
Sources in the IDF said that as the border fence with Egypt nears completion there are fewer points where drug smuggling is possible, and for that reason GOC Southern Command Tal Russo ordered Military Police to begin investigating whether soldiers were involved.
A hearing to extend the custody of the suspects is expected to take place tomorrow and Thursday at the Southern Command Military Court.