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Some 60 suspected drug dealers were arrested in Jaffa and Tel Aviv last night as police wrapped up a months-long sting operation in which a policeman posed as a friendly grocer who regularly bought large quantities of cocaine, heroin and hashish.

Police raided 49 of the suspects' homes while they were sleeping. When they were questioned at the police station, the suspects quickly realized that the drug-dealing produce seller they had known as Shuli was actually an undercover police officer.

"In this operation, some of the dominant figures involved in dealing drugs in South Tel Aviv over the last few years were arrested," said Yoram Ohayon, commander of the Yiftah district police, which includes the areas that were part of the sting operation.

Police have known for a long time that several gangs were dealing drugs in the Jaffa and South Tel Aviv neighborhoods where Shuli was dispatched. Some of them provided door-to-door service, delivering heroin, cocaine or hashish straight to customers' homes. Until now, there was little impediment to the flow of drugs.

"The goal was to have the agent infiltrate those distribution areas and shutter them by incriminating the main dealers behind it," said Ohayon.

When Shuli began his work, he bought drugs from lower-level dealers, but after becoming a familiar figure in the area, he made contact with the heavy hitters.

"I spoke to people in the street, we met at cafes - the area was so saturated with drugs that there was no problem reaching them," Shuli said yesterday.

He said it was difficult for him to play his role, but said it was worth it to stop the drug dealers from spreading their "poison."

"It wasn't a simple time - to leave my home and family, to change my habits, speech and external appearance, to be careful not to say a word or give a look that was out of place," the undercover officer said. "But the whole time I thought about how these people are poisoning the country's citizens and we have to do everything to stop it."

Shuli said he saw firsthand the harm drugs can wreak.

"I saw people getting destroyed to an extent that's impossible to describe, who ebb away and you don't see a spark in their eyes - it's frightening," he said. "These people go into the streets, to prostitution, everything for drugs."