Hamas has been intensifying its attempts to smuggle materials and goods from Israel into the Gaza Strip, but Israel has managed to foil 107 attempted smugglings through the Erez border crossing and 740 attempts through Kerem Shalom.
Among the confiscated items were chemical solutions used to make rockets, GoPro cameras which can be used to spy on IDF forces near the border, laser markers for weaponry, electrodes that can be used to make rockets and explosive devices, pipes and tin boards used to manufacture rockets, firecrackers hidden behind flowers that could be used by rioters during protests at the border fence, industrial coal, also used in rocket production, liquids to produce rocket propellant fuel which were hidden inside paint thinners and dishwashing liquid, soldering coils for rocket production hidden inside blow heaters, and disassembled motorcycles and trucks.
The smuggling attempts were stopped by a coordinated effort of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Administration of Border Crossings, and the Shin Bet.
Hundreds of additional smuggling attempts were foiled before the contraband could even reach any crossing using intelligence measures.
Following the rise in smuggling attempts, most of it through the Erez crossing, COGAT Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, warned that Israel might close the border crossings with Gaza completely if Hamas does not stop using merchants and laborers with permits to leave the Strip for the West Bank for its own purposes.
Mordechai described an instance in which a cancer patient from Khan Yunis, who was traveling to Nablus for medical treatment, was asked to pass on information to terror operatives in the city. In another case, a resident of the al-Shati refugee camp who was doing business in Israel was caught attempting to smuggle contraband for Hamas.
"Hamas is trying to recruit merchants, and this puts a spoke in the wheels of Israel's economic plans, and of permissions given to Gaza residents to enter Israel to pray," Mordechai said.
After Operation Protective Edge, a joint mechanism of the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the UN was put in place in order to supervise the transfer of construction materials into the Gaza Strip in order to rebuild the private homes and public structures destroyed during the war.
Following Operation Protective Edge, and as part of a financial aid plan for the Gaza Strip, Israel issued over 100,000 entry permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip for trade, medical treatments, and prayer at the al-Aqsa mosque.
Hamas, however, is taking advantage of these entry permits in order to smuggle contraband and pass on information between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The jump in smuggling attempts comes alongside the significant rise in the number of trucks entering Gaza with Israel's approval in the past year, following the significant hardships in the area after Operation Protective Edge ended in 2014. Hamas also lost about 80 percent of its smuggling tunnels on the Egyptian border in the summer of 2014.
According to Crossing Authority figures, there has been a 33 percent rise in the number of pedestrians entering Israel, with 11.4 million entries, compared to about 8.6 million in 2014. In addition, there was an increase of 18 percent in the number of trucks moving to and from the Gaza area (their number reaching 508,000), and a daily average of 41,000 Gazan pedestrian entries into Israel for various purposes (work, commerce, medical treatments, etc.).
The Defense Ministry says that the largest increase in activity occurred at the Kerem Shalom Crossing: it saw an increase of 121 percent in the amount of merchandise moving in and out of the strips, averaging about 800 trucks a day. 43 percent of the trucks were carrying construction materials, with 36 percent carrying assorted merchandise.
Head of the Crossing Authority, Major-General (res.) Camil Abu-Rokon, commented, "In the Judea and Samaria crossings, the Crossing Authority prepares for the entry of more than 50,000 Palestinians into Israel for work purposes every day. Meanwhile, the tough fight security authorities are conducting against the smugglers is already bearing fruit by preventing and delaying the strengthening of Gaza terror organizations. We will tighten security checks even more, implement new technologies, and chase the smugglers down with every tool we have at out disposal."