Israel uncovers illegal Palestinian weapons-making network

Israeli soldiers. (AP)
Israeli soldiers. (AP)

Jerusalem — Israel has uncovered an illegal Palestinian weapons manufacturing network in the West Bank in one of its largest raids during a months-long crackdown on illicit arms, the military said on Tuesday.

Since the start of the year, Israel has seized dozens of weapons, shuttered arms-making factories and arrested weapons dealers in a clampdown in the West Bank meant to quell a spate of Palestinian violence.

The military said that the latest raid overnight found seven weapons factories, 22 weapons-making machines and dozens of arms, which it said was a significant haul since it began targeting illegal weapons manufacturers. Among the seized arms were crude guns based on the Swedish "Carl Gustav" submachine gun, which the military says has been a preferred weapon for Palestinian attackers.

The military says that since January, it uncovered 29 weapons factories and seized 49 weapons-making machines and more than 300 firearms. More than 140 arms dealers and manufacturers have been arrested during that time.

The crackdown comes amid an 11-month wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence which has largely tapered off in recent weeks. Israel says the weapons crackdown is making it harder and more expensive for Palestinian assailants to acquire guns.

About 34 Israelis and two visiting Americans have been killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings but also shootings. More than 206 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the majority said by Israel to have been attackers. The rest were killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Israel says that Palestinian incitement has fuelled the violence. The Palestinians say that nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation and a lack of hope for gaining independence are driving attacks. The attackers have overwhelmingly been in their teens or 20s, often acting alone without the support of militant groups, making it difficult for Israeli forces to stop them.

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