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Egypt: 2 Israeli Arabs, Ukrainian Receive Life Terms

An Egyptian court sentenced two Israeli Arabs and a Ukrainian to life in prison for smuggling arms into Sinai.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/13/2012, 8:41 PM

Israeli-Egyptian Border
Israeli-Egyptian Border
Reuters

An Egyptian court on Tuesday sentenced two Israeli Arabs and a Ukrainian to life in prison after convicting them of smuggling weapons into the Sinai.

The verdict by a criminal court in the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal was released by state media on Tuesday.

Two of the three were arrested in November. One was tried in absentia.

Prosecutors said an Israeli Arab resident of Eilat, Moaz Zahalka, arrived at the Israel-Egypt border crossing at Taba, carrying a wooden box.

The machinegun and ammunition were discovered when the crate was placed on an explosives detection machine. The weapon was the sort used by police in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, investigators said.

The statement said Zahalka confessed he had two accomplices: another Israeli Arab and a Ukrainian living in Sinai.

Druze MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) slammed the harsh sentence as political grandstanding without any legal precedent.

"The court's decision to give a life sentence for bearing unauthorized ammunition was political rather than legal," Kara said.  The Egyptian authorities were merely looking for a sacrificial lamb due to the situation in Gaza." 

Kara said the second Israeli sentenced was Mouad Zehalka of Kfar Kana.

Arms smuggling into Sinai – where Bedouin tribes affiliated with al-Qaeda have staged numerous attacks – is a major concern for Israeli and Egyptian authorities.

Many arms smuggled to Sinai find their way to Hamas and other terror groups who target Jewish Israelis.