Police Bust “Gas Balloon” Gang

Gas Balloons outside of an apartment in Jerusalem. Photo by Flash90
Gas balloons outside an apartment in Yerushalayim. (Flash90)

Police, along with fire safety officials, seized over 250 empty gas canisters from Arab villages in the Galilee. The canisters, police believe, were to be used by “pirate” natural gas sellers to provide cheaper cooking gas for purchasers in Arab villages in the area. However, police also say that the canisters could have been used for criminal or even terrorist activity.

A 27-year-old resident of the village of Bo’ayna Nujidat was arrested. The detainee was wanted for questioning in four other criminal cases as well. He is being charged with operating a pirate gas facility, selling home cooking gas, propane, and other products without a license and without fire inspection services.

Many homes in Israel use gas “balloons,” which are supplied by authorized gas dealers who contract with big gas companies like Supergas and Amisragas. Regulations on installation and use of the canisters are very tight, and misuse of the canisters has in the past been the cause of accidents and explosions in apartment buildings. In addition, the empty canisters have been used by terrorists to prepare firebombs.

According to the law, only licensed gas dealers are allowed to have empty canisters in their possession. Police said that the phenomenon of illegal gas selling was common in Arab villages, as is the operation of unlicensed gas stations. Besides the safety issue – a police spokesperson said that selling gas without the proper equipment was “very dangerous and will sooner or later have tragic results” – the sellers were not collecting or paying taxes.

The detainee was taken to a court in Teveriah for extension of his remand. Officials reminded the public to immediately notify the police if anyone tries to sign them up for “discount” gas services, which may supply them with pirated gas – endangering them and their neighbors. “If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is,” a police spokesperson said. “This is a case where the buyer has to really beware.”