Gaza Importer Demands Defense Ministry Release Swimsuits

YERUSHALAYIM -
A cargo ship docked at the port in Ashdod. (Edi Israeli/Flash90)

A Gaza importer is demanding that Israel release sporting equipment that was seized – specifically, 28 “slimming swimsuits” – and has hired an Israeli lawyer to get the Defense Ministry to release the goods. The Ministry, officials told Yediot Acharonot, seized the outfits over concerns that they could be used by Hamas scuba divers to carry out attacks against Israel via the sea.

The controversy has been going on for weeks, after the Gaza company – which has been in business for several years and annually imports about 30 containers of sporting equipment – ordered the suits as part of its latest shipment. Imports to Gaza arrive via the Ashdod port, and customs inspectors released the goods there.

The company then tried to bring the goods into Gaza, with most of the goods approved for shipment into Gaza – except for the suits, which were deemed to be usable by Hamas for terror activities and seized by Israeli officials. The container which the suits were shipped in has been impounded.

According to the rules governing imports into Gaza, Israel defense officials have the final say on approving shipments to the Strip, with dangerous equipment that could be used for terror attacks banned without a special permit. In the past, Hamas has imported scuba diving equipment, some of which was used to equip Hamas frogmen to carry out attacks against Israel. Several such frogmen were captured during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

The company, however, said that it had no ties to Hamas or any other terror groups, and that it had never been in violation of security rules. The company hired an Israeli attorney to get the suits released; according to the company, the suits are ideal to help overweight people shed pounds, and that is what they are intended for. “Each day that the container remains impounded the company is losing money,” said the company’s Israeli attorney. “We are considering suing if the container is not released soon. The offending outfits consist of short-sleeved slimming suits that cannot be used for water sports like scuba diving, so it is not clear why the Ministry insists that this equipment will be used for terror purposes,” she said.

In a statement, the Ministry said that “our security forces have been waging an ongoing war against Hamas terrorists, and we do not take a chance when a suspicion arises. We are examining the impounded container, and if at the end of the inspection it is clear that the equipment is permissible for importing into Gaza, it will be released to the relevant parties.”