It took eight months of work and 600 soldiers and security personnel to track down what has apparently been one of the biggest sources of weapons for Arab terrorists in Yehudah and Shomron – rifles used for gaming, imported into Israel and smuggled to Chevron. The operation ended Tuesday with the arrest of 30 suspects and the confiscation of 250 of the weapons from a warehouse in Chevron. Most of the detainees were Chevron Arabs, but a number of Israeli Arabs were also arrested for their role in helping to smuggle the weapons.
The rifles in question are all made of plastic, and are meant for use in Air-Soft competitions, in which players fire plastic projectiles at each other for points. The rifles are also used in paintball. The IDF said in a statement that PA Arabs have for several years been ordering the rifles online via Israeli Arab agents. Once they were delivered to a workshop in Chevron, several parts on the weapons were replaced, turning them into rifles that could fire real bullets. The adjustment turned the weapons into M4 rifles, a modern update of the M16 rifle.
The IDF said that one of the weapons had been used in the 2015 murder of Eitam and Naomi Henkin, H”yd, on Chol Hamoed Sukkos in a shooting attack on the road between Itamar and Elon Moreh in the Shomron. Officials said that the terrorists had seen the couple’s four young children in the back seat – but did not shoot them because Eitam Henkin, H”yd, had defended his children bodily, and they were unable to shoot them because they had delayed too long in killing their father.
The investigation that led to the arrests began eight months ago when IDF soldiers arrested several PA criminals in a village south of Chevron. The investigation led soldiers and police to the process by which the weapons came to be used by terrorists and criminals. The rifles were ordered by Israelis from Chinese merchant sites and delivered via Ashdod Port. Since they were plastic, the rifles were classified as toys and were not subject to special inspection. The weapons were delivered to Chevron in the trunks of Israeli-registered cars via the Tarqumiya checkpoint; Israeli cars are usually not inspected on their way into PA-controlled areas. The rifles were then delivered and adjusted, and sold to terror and criminal elements. The IDF said that the rifles sold for NIS 10,000 each, a bargain compared to the NIS 60,000-100,000 M16 rifles sell for.
“This was a very complicated operation,” one of the officers involved in organizing this week’s raid told Yediot Acharonot. “We were able to complete it by tracking down the workshop where the rifles were adjusted. This operation is part of our overall efforts to clamp down on illegal weapons in Yehudah and Shomron,” he added.