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Twenty suspected drug traffickers from Ramle, Lod, Kafr Qasem and Petah Tikva were arrested early yesterday morning, after several months of undercover work by a young police officer.

The officer, a 24-year-old U.S. citizen, was serving in the Israel Police as a conscript when he was taken into the Central District's undercover unit. Over several months, he purchased large quantities of hashish and Ecstasy from various drug dealers. When dealers asked about his background, he told them he was the son of a big-time U.S. criminal and had been sent to Israel to stay away from criminal activities.

He actually had lived in Israel as a child, and returned as an adult, on his own.

"A lot of our people are providing reinforcement for the police in the south of the country, but everyone knows that crime doesn't stop in wartime," Central District Commander Avi Meuman said yesterday.

The officer's parents learned of his activities only last night, a few days after they arrived in Israel.