Hezbollah’s Growing Infiltration Attempts among Israeli Arabs

Hezbollah is capitalizing on the rising crime rates within Israel's Arab community to bolster its efforts in smuggling weapons into the country and recruiting criminals into its ranks. This worrisome activity poses a heightened security risk for Israel, as the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, is concerned that Arab criminals seeking vengeance against the police and the state might align with Hezbollah.

In recent weeks, the Shin Bet apprehended four Israeli Arabs from Kfar Qasem and the city of Lod, who were collaborating with Hezbollah in Lebanon to facilitate the smuggling of weapons into Israeli territory.

These weapons included large explosive devices manufactured in Iran. The smuggling operation took place through a route often used by terrorist elements, extending from Lebanon to Israel.

The Shin Bet’s revelation of a new smuggling route for Iranian-manufactured explosive devices into Israel, coupled with a Hezbollah terrorist’s attack on the Megiddo Junction using a substantial Iranian-made explosive device on March 13th of this year, indicates a heightened push by Hezbollah to embed itself deeper within Arab society in Israel.

Hezbollah has been striving to recruit individuals from Israel’s Arab population for over two decades, and it has achieved some success. Notably, in 2000, it recruited Keis Obeid from the village of Taybe, who played a pivotal role in the kidnapping of Israeli citizen Elhanan Tanenbaum

.In 2002, Hezbollah managed to recruit Omar Alheib from the village of Zarzir, a former IDF lieutenant colonel who was convicted of severe espionage and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Hezbollah even made attempts to establish ties with Azmi Bashara, a former member of the Knesset, who is suspected of passing information to the organization during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 in exchange for substantial sums of money.

Bashara fled the country in 2007 following the exposure of the affair and remains abroad to avoid prosecution.

These instances are just a few among several notable cases covered by the media.

Security officials believe that Hezbollah is capitalizing on the escalating crime rates within Israel’s Arab community and the demand for weapons and explosive devices among Arab criminal factions engaged in internal conflicts.

This situation provides Hezbollah with opportunities to forge alliances with hostile elements within Israel’s Arab population, potentially recruiting them as operatives and agents of chaos, especially in the event of a military confrontation with Israel.

The successful infiltration of Israel with two large Iranian-made explosive devices known as “Klimgors,” even if initially intended for criminal purposes, deeply concerns the Shin Bet.

While initially intended for criminal activities, these devices could potentially end up in the hands of terrorist groups, serving as tools for attacks.

Hezbollah’s attempts to establish new smuggling routes and refine its operational methods are ongoing.

While the   terror organization previously focused on recruiting individuals with extremist views within Israel’s Arab population, the current surge in crime rates among Arabs has led Hezbollah to target potential recruits from the criminal underworld.

Israeli Arabs possess intimate knowledge of Jewish Israeli society, its vulnerabilities, economic dynamics, and social connections.

This insight makes them valuable sources of intelligence gathering for Hezbollah, which can then be channeled to Iran.

The increased activity of Hezbollah among Israeli Arabs intensifies the security risks faced by Israel.

There is a genuine concern that Arab criminals seeking retribution may form alliances with Hezbollah, mobilizing and cooperating in ways that could threaten national security.

The introduction of highly dangerous Iranian explosive devices, like the “Klimagor,” into Israel poses a substantial threat, even if intended for internal criminal conflicts.

Such devices could potentially find their way into the hands of terrorist factions in Judea and Samaria, endangering both IDF soldiers and settlers.

The disclosure of Iranian explosive devices is a result of the Shin Bet’s expansion into the realm of criminal activities, tangentially linked to terrorism.

The boundary between these realms is thin, and the Shin Bet acknowledges the dual nature of weapon trafficking, which not only fuels the illegal arms market within Israel’s Arab community but also supplies armed terrorist groups in Judea and Samaria.

Iran’s strategy includes smuggling weapons into northern Samaria through Jordan, alongside substantial financial support for terrorist groups in Samaria, enabling them to procure weapons on the black market among Israeli Arabs.

During Operation “Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021, Hezbollah lauded the efforts of Israeli Arabs who engaged in riots and targeted Jews and security forces in Arab and mixed cities.

Hezbollah’s media outlets claimed that “Palestinians inside Israel understand that this is first and foremost their own battle.”

Commentators in Lebanon speculate that the weaponry found among criminal elements in the Arab community may eventually be turned against Israel’s security forces if tensions escalate, as happened in October 2000 and May 2021, particularly in response to events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Yoni Ben Menachem Senior Middle East Analyst

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem is a Middle East senior analyst ,a journalist and
the former CEO of the Israel Broadcasting Authority(IBA). He has
decades of experience in written and video journalism. Ben
Menachem’s path in the media world began as a producer for
Japanese television in the Middle East. After that, he held many key
positions in the media The Israeli: CEO of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, director of “Kol Israel” Radio, reporter on West Bank and
Gaza Strip affairs, political reporter and commentator, commentator
on Middle East affairs and editor-in-chief and presenter of the
program “Middle East Magazine”. 

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