Israeli Arab drug smuggling ring
Members of Israeli Arab drug smuggling ring suspected of transporting Hezbollah weapons. Photo by Shin Bet
Text size
Gil Eliyahu
One of the alleged Hezbollah agents being escorted to the Nazareth police station on August 8, 2012. Photo by Gil Eliyahu

The Shin Bet Security Service and the Northern District Police last month arrested a cell of Israeli drug smugglers who brought explosive devices sourced by Hezbollah into Israel, a gag order lifted on Wednesday revealed.

The smugglers are residents of the nothern village of Ghajar and the city of Nazareth, and had allegedly been in contact with drug smugglers in Lebanon who were working for Hezbollah.

A lawyer representing some of the suspects told Army Radio that they denied the charges.

Shin Bet officials have termed this affair as another example of Hezbollah's growing influence in terror activities outside of Lebanon – including attacks abroad (for example, the recent suicide blast on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas), as well as attempts to carry out attacks in Israel and to get its hand into the terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Sinai.

The explosives haul was enough for "a wave of serious terrorist attacks in Israel," the Shin Bet said, noting that 3 kg (7 pounds) of explosives were used in the July 18 bombing at an airport in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists.

 Israel blamed that attack on Hezbollah and Iran, which denied the accusation.

A total of 14 people have been arrested in this affair. The Northern District Prosectutor was to serve indictments against 10 of the suspects on Wednesday afternoon at the Nazareth District Court.

The suspects will be charged with crimes including aiding the enemy at a time of war, contact with a foreign agent, possession and transportation of weapons, establishing contacts in order to commit a crime, and attempt to smuggle and sell drugs.

According to details that were approved for publication, police suspect that in early June, 20 kilograms of C4 explosives were transferred in a bag, to a young man at the border fence near Ghajar. From there, the explosives were handed off to Shahid Ibrahim, a village resident, widely known as a drug dealer, and brother in law of another Israeli drug dealer, Sa’ad Qahmouz.

Qahmouz fled to Lebanon in 2006 in light of suspicions that he provided Hezbollah with information and equipment in exchange for drugs. Today, he is considered a prominent drug baron in Lebanon.

Ibrahim passed the drugs along to another village resident, Noaf Khatib, who was the contact person with Lebanese drug dealer George Nimer, (“Abu Ali”) – a dealer connected to Hezbollah, and known for acting on their behalf. Khatib managed to pass the bag, full of explosives, along to a contact person in Nazareth, Abed al-Bassat Zoabi, also a drug dealer.

The transfer of explosives in the bag, then concealed in a crate, was done meticulously and under heavy security. The drug dealers used Israeli SIM cards on both sides of the border, and spoke in code words so their activity would not be exposed. The Shin Bet estimates that only as the bag reached Zoabi in Nazareth did the dealers realize that it contained explosives and not drugs.

The explosives were found in the Fahoura neighborhood in Nazareth, buried one meter underground. Each kilogram of explosive material was wrapped separately, and four of them had detonation mechanisms attached as well. As the events unfolded, an FN MAG 7.62mm caliber machine gun and an M16 assault rifle that were stolen from the home of an IDF lieutenant major roughly a year ago were uncovered as well.