Infrastructure Ministry inspectors seized some 85 tons of illegally manufactured gas in a warehouse in the southern part of Ashkelon's industrial zone.
The gas, which was stored in tanks, is believed to have been in intended for smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The ministry received a tip-off regarding the operation and dispatched inspectors to investigate. They raided the warehouse on Wednesday night, uncovering 1,700 large tanks.
"The tanks were in a huge warehouse that is not suited for gas storage; it was filled with wooden platforms and had no fire extinguishing system in place. It posed a very grave threat to local residents," said Shimon Ben-Shlomo, a senior inspector with the ministry. Ben-Shlomo added that this is the largest amount of gas ever seized in Israel.
The senior inspector said there was an even greater risk of disaster as area has been bombarded in the
past by Gaza rockets. The warehouse is not fortified, Ben-Shlomo said.
According to the ministry, there is a pirate network of gas tank distribution in Israel. Most of the tanks are stolen. In this case, said Ben-Shlomo, the gas was intended to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
"The demand for these tanks wasn't just about the gas, but mostly because these are iron tanks – a metal that can be easily used in the manufacturing or weaponry, rocket and mortar shells," he said.
Local police said in response to the raid that they would arrest the owner of the warehouse and others involved in the storage of the gas and the plan to smuggle it into Gaza.