Аrrest (illustrative)
Аrrest (illustrative) Israel news photo: Flash 90

Police swept into the Israeli Arab city of Kfar Kassem in central Israel early on Sunday morning and arrested 18 people in connection with a weapons smuggling ring.

Border police were involved in the operation, which followed an investigation into illegal weapons trade in the area.

Sixteen of those arrested are men in their 20s, and an additional two are minors, police said. Additional arrests are expected.

The suspects are accused of having smuggled weapons into Israel from Palestinian Authority-controlled territories in Judea and Samaria (Shomron). Kfar Kassem is a short distance from several PA-controlled Arab towns in Samaria.

Central District Police Commander Bruno Stein said, “Our goal is to arrest those involved in illegal trade in, and use of, weapons, a phenomenon that endangers the lives of innocent citizens.”

“We make sure to hold an ongoing dialog with the [Israeli Arab] community in order to find ways to fight the problem of weapons in [Arab] towns together,” he added. Stein recently reported that Arab citizens of Israel in Kfar Kassem and surrounding towns have been increasingly willing to cooperate with police in fighting crime in their communities.

In 2011, a study concluded that some forms of Israeli Arab lawbreaking could be influenced by nationalist motivations based in a feeling of unfairness.