On Monday, a military court lifted a gag order to reveal that 15 people have been arrested for alleged involvement in the scheme, including seven soldiers, five non-commissioned officers and three civilians. Some of the suspects also allegedly sold NIS 800,000 (roughly $205,000) worth of the illicit materials.
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The secret probe that concluded this past weekend found that the detained soldiers and NCOs, who serve as trackers along Israel's border with Egypt, warned the smugglers in Sinai about upcoming army patrols and ambushes.
Using cell phone calls and text messages, the trackers allegedly informed an Israeli smuggler about unguarded spots on the border. The smuggler then transferred the information to his Egyptian counterparts.
The Military Police fear that some of the smuggling passageways were located near the Gaza Strip. While the investigation focused on the criminal aspect of the operation, the IDF's Southern Command has repeatedly warned that the routes could be – and have been – used by terrorists aided by the same drug smugglers. Last week, a civilian working on the Egypt security fence was killed by terrorists on the border.
The smugglers had to increasingly rely on the information transfers once Israel stepped up efforts to build the border fence.
"The construction of the fence is heading towards completion and as result smuggling locations are growing scarce," Lt. Col. Gil Mamon, who heads the Military Police's special investigations unit.
As part of the investigation, an undercover agent managed to buy two kilograms of heroin, worth NIS 250,000 (roughly $64,000,) from a dealer on Highway 6, near the southern city of Kiryat Gat. The drugs were hidden inside a faux spare tire loaded on the dealer's car.
According to a senior Military Police official, the detainees admitted to the charges and provided details about the operation. They claimed they received thousands of shekels for each bit of data they provided.
However, attorney Yossi Lin, who represents one of the trackers, said that his client denied any involvement in the scheme.
"My client is an excellent soldier who received two certificates of merit for uncovering explosives in Gaza while risking his life for the State of Israel," he said. "He adamantly denies the charges and he has nothing to do with these violations."
Approximately three kilograms of heroin, over 1,000 ecstasy pills, dozens of kilograms of hashish and half a kilogram of cocaine were sneaked in across the border, making the operation one of the biggest schemes uncovered by the Military Police in recent years, a military source said.
Two civilians, two career officers and a soldiers are suspected of selling the drugs, while the rest are suspected of transferring information and other smuggling violations.
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