Israeli security officials believe dozens of weapons seized at the Lebanese border overnight as they were smuggled into the country were destined to be used for terrorist attacks inside Israel, according to television reports Saturday.
According to the Kan- and Channel 13 news, officials believe that weapons and ammunition were intended for Arab Israeli terrorist operators with the support of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
Security officials told Channel 13 that the captured cache was “the biggest smuggling attempt this year.” Channel 12 was told that defense officials could not recall such a significant attempt in terms of the number of weapons involved and their quality.
During the night on Friday, security forces rejected an attempt to smuggle, from Lebanon to northern Israel, 43 small arms and ammunition worth about NIS 2.7 million (approximately $ 820,000), according to police estimates.
Police and the Israeli Defense Forces announced on Saturday that they were investigating whether it was carried out with the help of Hezbollah.
As Lebanon faces a major financial crisis, Hezbollah is believed to prefer to arm others for an attack on Israel rather than direct aggression at the border, officials told Channel 1
A Hezbollah attack on the border itself is likely to result in a clash with the Israeli army, which could lead to a total war in Lebanon.
Lebanon is struggling with a number of shortcomings, including petrol, and the government is discussing the abolition of subsidies it can no longer afford, amid what the World Bank said is one of the worst economic crises since the 1850s.
The local currency has lost more than 90% of its value on the black market, and Lebanese state-owned power companies supply less than five hours of electricity a day in most areas as they struggle to come up with foreign currency for fuel imports.
Lebanon has been without a government since the previous one withdrew after a deadly port explosion last August, but a deeply divided political class has since failed to agree on a new cabinet to lift the nation out of crisis.
The IDF’s Arab spokesman highlighted the monetary value of the weapons confiscated in the bust as Israel’s northern neighbor faces a major financial crisis.
“The estimated value of the cannons smuggled from Lebanon and seized by us is about 1,248,000,000 Lebanese pounds ($ 827,000),” Avichay Adraee tweeted.
“How much milk for children, how many diapers, how many liters of fuel and how much medicine could be bought for the Lebanese citizens with this money?” he added.
In the midst of the crisis, Hezbollah is suspected of continuing to smuggle weapons and drugs.
Over a dozen attempts at arms smuggling were thwarted along the northern border since early 2021, with over 120 rifles and pistols confiscated, according to police.
However, security officials believe a number of attempts have been successful, according to Kan.
Last month, Israel arrested a suspect and seized a number of weapons during a seemingly similar smuggling attempt.
According to police, a resident of Ein Qiniyye, a Druze village in the Golan Heights, was arrested in a field near the town of Metula, adjacent to the Lebanese border, as he tried to smuggle a supply of weapons into a tractor under the tire of agricultural activity. Inside the tractor, police found 12 pistols worth about NIS 500,000.
Last month, Israeli security forces arrested an Arab Israeli father and son suspected of smuggling large quantities of hashish and firearms to Israel from Lebanon, potentially on behalf of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, according to the military.
Earlier this month, Adraee pointed to a senior Hezbollah official named Hajj Khalil Harb as the person responsible for coordinating smuggling attempts into northern Israel.
Harb is, according to Adraee, senior adviser to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
The terrorist group is known to fund its activities through the sale of drugs worldwide, including the production of large quantities of hashish in eastern Lebanon.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.