Iran Floods West Bank With Weapons

Latest Developments

Iran is employing a network of militants, criminals, and intelligence operatives to smuggle weapons into the West Bank, The New York Times reported on April 9. A group of unnamed Iranian, American, and Israeli officials told the Times that Tehran is running two routes across the Middle East — one through Syria and Jordan and the other through Syria and Lebanon. In Jordan, Iranian operatives hand off the weapons to Bedouin smugglers, who deliver the caches to criminal gangs at the Israeli border. The second, more challenging route requires smugglers to cross Israel’s heavily guarded northern border and transport the weapons to the West Bank.

The Iranian officials explained that Tehran’s goal is to fuel unrest against Israel, the Times said. Asked about this claim, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Amir Saeid Iravani, maintained that “Palestinian resistance forces possess the capability to manufacture and procure the necessary armaments for their cause.”

Expert Analysis

“By extending its ‘ring of fire’ strategy into the West Bank, Iran reinforces that the Gaza war is just one theater in its campaign to destroy Israel. Israel and its allies must calculate their responses according to this broader threat.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

“The regime in Tehran has exploited the weak governance and corruption of the Palestinian Authority by arming terrorist groups like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in the West Bank. This has resulted in over two years of mounting violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Consequently, Israel is faced with a significant security challenge that must be addressed differently, as the violence persists despite daily efforts by Israel, and at times Palestinian security forces, to resolve it.” — Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Israel Thwarts West Bank Smuggling Plot

On March 25, the Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they had thwarted a significant Iranian smuggling operation in “recent months.” Iranian operatives, led by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), attempted to smuggle advanced weapons from Iran into the West Bank to arm Palestinian agents recruited by Munir Makdah, a senior Fatah official and known Hezbollah and IRGC operative based in Lebanon. The Shin Bet and the IDF said they confiscated a large cache of weapons, including a variety of explosives, grenade launchers, anti-tank mines, and firearms.

Turkey Involved in Weapons Shipments

Turkey is also involved in the transfer of Iranian weapons and explosive material to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On September 14, Israeli customs authorities revealed that they intercepted 16 tons of explosive material on its way from Turkey to Gaza in July. On December 21, Israeli authorities foiled an attempt to smuggle thousands of weapons parts from Turkey to the West Bank. According to a joint statement from the Israeli police and the Israel Tax Authority, inspectors found automatic weapon and assault rifle components inside an industrial weaving machine that weighed several tons and was 10 meters (33 feet) long. The shipment from Turkey, which arrived at the Port of Ashdod, was destined for the West Bank city of Nablus, a hotbed of Palestinian terrorist activity.

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