Last updated: 8 August, 2012

Ten Arab Israelis held over Lebanon arms smuggling

An Israeli court on Wednesday extended the remand of 10 Arab Israelis for allegedly smuggling explosives from Lebanon into Israel at the request of the Shiite Hezbollah militia, officials said.

The court in the northern city of Nazareth charged the 10 with a slew of smuggling offences involving both drugs and weapons, as well as “aiding the enemy in time of war,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

They will be tried on August 29.

Police had initially arrested 14 suspects, but later released four of them, one of whom was a minor.

Rosenfeld did not say when they were arrested, but according to the Shin Bet internal security service, the network, which was largely made up of known drug dealers, was exposed last month.

According to Rosenfeld, the suspects were acting under the orders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, which advocates armed struggle against the Jewish state and controls much of southern Lebanon.

Israel and Lebanon are officially in a state of war, and the Jewish state fought a devastating war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

Public radio said police and the Shin Bet found 20 kilogrammes (44 pounds) of explosives and weapons hidden in Nazareth.

Last month, Israel accused Iran and Hezbollah of planning attacks in “over 20 countries” in remarks just days after a deadly attack in Bulgaria that killed five Israeli tourists and their local bus driver.

Iran denied the charges but Hezbollah refused to comment.

Arab Israelis make up more than a fifth of the Israeli population, numbering around 1.3 million people. They are the descendants of Palestinians who remained in the Jewish state after the 1948 war that followed its creation.

They say they suffer from discrimination, particularly in employment, education and public funding.