Three Israelis were charged Monday with smuggling millions of dollars worth of raw materials into Gaza, officials said. They allegedly were aware that the industrial items they were selling to a Palestinian merchant were being transferred to the militant group Hamas for building military infrastructure.
The three, Micha Peretz, Yehoram Alon and Naji Zoarov, were indicted in Beersheba District Court on charges of shipping iron plates, cement and steel cables, pipes and electronic materials to Hamas that could be used to build tunnels and weapons as well as for military communications, according to a statement from Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency. The counts against them include funding terrorism, money laundering and tax evasion.
The men had allegedly been smuggling goods over the past two years and increased their activities during the Israeli assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Israel closely watches materials entering Gaza through a commercial crossing, Kerem Shalom, and for the past eight years has strictly limited the entry of what are known as dual-use materials, which can be used to build defensive or offensive infrastructure, allowing such materials into Gaza only for specific and approved projects.
According to Agence France-Presse, a Shin Bet spokesman said some of the goods the men had smuggled were allowed, but others, which were banned, had been hidden inside shipments of allowed goods, such as humanitarian aid. The agency has also arrested six merchants from Gaza and charged them at a court in Israel.
The three men were arrested about a month ago, according to Haaretz, as part of a ring that was smuggling illegal materials into Gaza. Two of the men, owners of a metal business in central Israel, would allegedly send shipments to the third, Peretz, who lived near the border with Gaza. He would transfer the goods to a Gazan, who would then pay for the goods, according to the report.