The Israeli heroin market, worth half a billion dollars in 2008, is largely supplied by channels running through south Lebanon, according to estimates by the Anti-Drug Authority. Police, who were able to stop only a fraction of the drug smuggling in the past year, said a significant portion of the funds made their way to Hizbullah.
The Authority recently estimated that almost five tons of heroin entered Israel in 2008, most of it from Lebanon, according to the Associated Press. The total haul was worth $125 million at the border, and would have been worth some $500 million by the time it hit the streets of Israel.
In Lebanon, the drug trade is centered mostly in the Bekaa Valley, where some of the opium is grown. Many of the smugglers are Shi'ite Muslims from border villages where the Hizbullah terrorist organization has authority. Police said that the group takes a portion of the drug profits and uses them to finance terrorism.
In addition, smugglers sometimes provide the terrorist organization with sensitive military information. Concealed border spots, which in the past were used as drug drop points, later became the locations where Hizbullah ambushed and captured Israeli troops.
On the Israeli side of the border, Lebanese smugglers are met by Israeli Arabs working for Israeli Arab crime families. From there, drugs make their way onto the Israeli street. In the end, the approximate 15,000 Israeli drug users help fund organized crime and terrorism.
In the past year, police have succeeded in confiscating a total of 155 kilograms of heroin and one million dollars in cash at the Lebanese border, but according to the report, this was a small fraction of the drug trade. In one major bust last September, police officers captured 55 kilograms of heroin and 10 kilograms of hashish, as well as $650,000 in cash.
Drugs also enter Israel illegally through other borders. Smugglers have been foiled at the Syrian border, while on the Jordanian border, smugglers have been known to row across the Dead Sea. In addition, most of Israel’s marijuana and hashish enters the country through the Egyptian border. But it is on the border with Lebanon that drug smuggling has been linked directly with terrorism.
Last month, U.S. officials confirmed that Hizbullah was also operating a drug-smuggling operation between Mexico and the U.S. Hizbullah is also known to be involved in drug trafficking in South America.