Israel Freezes Postal Service to Gaza Over Alleged Weapons Smuggling

Gaza residents say the decision is a continuation of Israel’s policy of collective punishment and further proof that Israel controls all of the Strip.

The Erez border crossing between Israel and northern Gaza Strip.
Reuters

Israel is halting mail service to the Gaza Strip “in light of multiple attempts to smuggle banned items used for terrorism against Israel,” Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in occupied territories, posted on Facebook on Thursday.

Security officials confiscated drones, scuba diving equipment and weapons components, among items being sent in the mail to the coastal territory via the overland Erez crossing earlier in the day.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas had no immediate response.

Several Gaza residents told Haaretz they see the decision as a continuation of Israel’s policy of collective punishment and further proof that Israel controls all of Gaza. They said the postal services are very limited anyway and handle mainly package deliveries.

A drone pictured on July 14, 2016 on a Defense Ministry Facebook page that Israel says it confiscated from mail destined for Gaza.
Facebook

A., who orders clothing sent by mail, said “there are people who buy shoes or watches or items you can’t find in the strip, or someone abroad or in the West Bank sends you a gift. It made life a lot easier for people.”

Since Israel controls the postal services, A. said it was "strange" for Israel to complain of dangerous items being smuggled into Gaza via a service closely monitored by its own authorities. 

“Such a decision will only intensify the anger and the despair,” he said. 

Israel had halted mail service to Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007, but resumed the deliveries a year ago to try and permit normal living for the public and private sector in the territory.

Israel says it xrays packages for Gaza to make sure they don’t contain items that could help Hamas’s military objectives against Israel.

But security officials say there has been an increase in attempts to smuggle in osentsibly civilian equipment that may have terrorist uses as well.

Since the start of 2016, 315 attempts to smuggle in contraband have been thwarted, compared to eight such instances in 2015.

Many of the packages containing drones, antennas, optical equipment and other items used to gather military intelligence have been intercepted while en route to fictitious addresses or non-existent people.