JERUSALEM – Israelis are expressing outrage at news that five Israelis have been arrested on suspicion of selling thousands of rounds of ammunition to Palestinian militants, who may have used the bullets in terror attacks.
Police said two of those detained live in Adora, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Their arrests shocked the small community. Adora was the scene of a shooting by Palestinian gunmen May 27 that killed four people, including a 5-year-old girl.
On Friday, the Maariv daily quoted unnamed military commanders calling the affair tantamount to treason, and said that the accused should be sentenced to long prison terms.
While it is not unheard of for soldiers to sell stolen gear to Jewish and Arab criminals, it is rare for Jewish settlers to help arm Palestinians who have targeted the settlers for attack.
The Adora residents are Roi Amar, a soldier, and Oded Mulai, a civilian, police spokesman Gil Kleiman said. Amar's brother Sela, also a soldier, was arrested by military police but released on a legal technicality, the spokesman said.
Israeli newspaper and radio reports said the men allegedly stole crates of rifle ammunition from the army and sold them over the past three years to a Palestinian member of the Tanzim militia. Israel accuses the militia of being involved in dozens of attacks on Israelis.
Kleiman said a Palestinian suspect from the West Bank village of Tarqumiya was under arrest, but he did not give details.
Brothers Moshe and Nadav Cohen, also soldiers, from the neighboring settlement of Telem, and a sixth suspect, Kobi Uliel, a reserve major from southern Israel, were taken into custody Tuesday on suspicion of being part of the ring.
"We're in confusion and shock," Telem resident Gideon Mizrachi told Israeli Radio. "Not just we on the settlement but the whole Israeli people, I think, is struck with disbelief."
At Mulai's hearing in Jerusalem on Wednesday, a police witness said the accused knew the consequences of their actions.
"Their acts were not carried out in innocence," the Maariv newspaper quoted detective Ari Ben Lulu as telling the court. "They knew exactly what the target of each bullet was."
In the attack on Adora, Palestinian gunmen slipped into the settlement on a quiet Saturday morning and shot dead four Israelis.
Anat Harari, 41, was hit in the shoulder as she stood by her kitchen window. She said she was appalled that her neighbors sold ammunition to Palestinians.
"They sold us for half a shekel [about 10 cents], the price of one bullet that ruined my life," she told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper.
Maariv said the group was believed to have sold at least 15,000 bullets, weapons and other military equipment. It said Moshe Cohen told police investigators he believed the ammunition was to be fired as part of celebrations at Palestinian weddings.
"I would call this treason," Ben Lulu said. "Who knows if the bullets they sold were not the bullets with which civilians and children from Adora were killed."