Be'er Sheva District Court on Tuesday sentenced a resident of southern Israel to seven years in jail for heading a smuggling ring that transferred illegal goods to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Michael Peretz, 52, from Moshav Mivtachim was also fined NIS 200,000 for smuggling thousands of tons of concrete, piping, metals and electronic equipment directly to the Hamas terror group.
Peretz was convicted in May on multiple counts, including making contact with a foreign agent, procuring goods for terrorist groups, conspiracy to commit a crime, money laundering and tax fraud. He was, however, acquitted of more serious charges including aiding an enemy in wartime.
The defendant and two others were indicted in March 2015 for allegedly smuggling goods into the Gaza Strip that were used to restore Hamas' network of terror tunnel infrastructure in the wake of the 2014 Gaza war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.
The indictment shocked the residents of the area surrounding the Gaza Strip, as Peretz was also a local resident.
According to the prosecution, Peretz knew that one of the Gaza traders to whom he was transferring the goods was supplying them to Hamas, and had even been warned about it.
Even so, he continued to smuggle goods on a massive scale through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza and the hands of the same Palestinian dealer.
The prosecution also said that Peretz had allegedly disguised the goods for which he received cash. He was also accused of hiding income of some NIS 8 million, while declaring bankruptcy and defrauding his creditors.
Handing down the sentence, the panel of judges headed by Natan Zlotchover said Tuesday that "the terrorist organizations in Gaza had suffered severe damage [in the war], and were doing everything in their power to arm themselves and become more powerful in order to harm Israeli citizens, including by building tunnels and acquiring ammunition. As such, the terror groups needed resources that they tried to obtain through smuggling via the Kerem Shalom crossing."
The judges further noted that "all the events have in common the defendant's unabashed attempts to make money without heeding the legal obstacles that stood in his way."
Peretz told the court that his family members had also suffered as a result of the case against him and the extensive publicity it had received, which identified him as a traitor to his country and aiding terrorist organizations.
But the judges dismissed this claim on the grounds that the harm to Peretz' family was no greater than that of other families whose children had been convicted of offenses of moral turpitude.
"The defendant knowingly endangered the security of the state," the judges ruled.
"The overall picture that emerges is of a defendant who conducted his business fraudulently, with a complete lack of transparency and in violation of the law when he was not deterred from doing so – nor was he deterred by a fear of harming state security as long as he saw economic gain from his criminal activities."