“To the Arab citizens of Israel, I want to say: You deserve personal security; therefore, we are here taking action and we will continue to do so,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
By Erin Viner
He went on to caution, “And to the lawbreakers in the Arab sector who have cast terror on Arabs and Jews alike – we will not give up, we will not relent. We have you in sight and we will pursue you to the last firearm and to the last of the criminals who are casting fear on public order. We will settle accounts with you and we will put you on trial, and you will pay.”
The Israeli leader made his pledge at a ceremony at police headquarters in Tel Aviv to mark the largest ever police operation against illegal gun dealers in the Arab sector during a mission code-named “Operation Ocean.”
The undercover operation was launched overnight yesterday and Monday, in an effort to stem the crime wave that has claimed the lives of at least 106 Arabs in suspected homicides so far this year. 90 of the victims were identified as Israeli nationals, with 16 listed as Palestinian from East Jerusalem or residents of the country by the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit organization.
Bennett inspected what he described as “one of the largest illegal arms caches in the Middle East.”
The trove of weapons valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars confiscated during the operation included 40 assault rifles, 13 handguns, 2 machine guns and 2 explosive devices. ready for use, activated by a mobile phone. A father and his 3 sons who operated a family gun-running cell were among 78 suspected arms dealers who were also nabbed during the unprecedented bust.
Israel Police called Operation Ocean as the largest seizure of contraband arms in Israel’s history.
1,600 officers, including Border Police forces, reportedly participated in the raids of 25 Arab communities in northern and central Israel. Most of the arms are believed to have been smuggled into the West Bank from Lebanon and Jordan or stolen from IDF bases.
“This morning, the Israel Police completed Operation Ocean, an operation of unprecedented scope to seize weapons and munitions in the Arab sector,” said Bennett, while flanked at press conference by Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev and Israel Police Inspector General Yaakov Shabtai.
“We have declared war on lawbreakers in the Arab sector,” he added, stressing that “We established a special wing of the Israel Police on the issue, and we are taking action. We are not talking, but doing.”
The “sophisticated and daring operation” is part of the campaign against the dismantlement “the reckless use of weapons in the Arab sector,” said Prime Minister Bennett, after commending the Inspector General, Public Security Minister, the district commander and “all those who were part of the process.”
“The way is yet long but the change is already being felt in the field,” he emphasized, while affirming that, From here we look to the next operation and those after that.”
Prime Minister Bennett pledged to take serious action last month after saying the country had “lost control” over the rampant wave of violence, following earlier statements in August branding the crime plaguing Israeli-Arab communities as a “national calamity.”