Israel Army Clamps Down on West Bank Weapon Makers


Jerusalem (AFP) – The Israeli army has closed 16 Palestinian workshops in the West Bank used to make weapons, in a clampdown since the start of the year, an officer said on Tuesday.

“As part of our war against the production of homemade weapons, we have seized 200 weapons, ammunition and grenades and closed 16 illegal workshops since early 2016,” Colonel Roman Gofman said.

In a conference call with reporters, he said the campaign also targeted Palestinian shops selling firecrackers, which can be used to make grenades and improvised explosive devices.

“Our operations have led to a surge in the price of weapons in general,” Gofman said.

It has caused the price of assault rifles such as Kalashnikovs to rise to 40,000 to 50,000 shekels ($10,300-$13,000), which he said “limits the ability of local terrorist groups to easily equip themselves”.

As a result, he said, those in charge of workshops now “think twice before selling their weapons to terrorist groups in the knowledge that the Israeli army is after them”.

The colonel declined to give details on the extent of cooperation between the army and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces in the fight against the production and trafficking of weapons in the West Bank.

The Hebron area of the occupied West Bank has been one of the main focuses of a wave of deadly unrest that has rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories since last October.

The violence has killed at least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli  authorities.

Others were shot dead during protests and clashes, while some were killed by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip.