Israeli security forces raided seven Palestinian-run West Bank weapons workshops early Tuesday morning, confiscating dozens of illegal guns. An IDF official told The Times of Israel that the operation, the largest of its sort this year thus far, was part of an ongoing effort to reduce the number of illegal arms circulating in the West Bank.
The raids targeting workshops in the Hebron and Bethlehem areas yielded about 50 weapons and some 22 pieces of gunsmithing machinery. Though the machinery, including drill presses and metal lathes, is common to most machines shops, the equipment seized appeared to “specifically designed for the manufacturing of weapons,” the IDF official said.
The recovered weapons include handguns, shotguns, and Carlo-style submachine guns, which are based on the design of Carl Gustav submachine guns. Security forces also confiscated gun parts — including grips, barrels, and stocks — that could have been used to manufacture more weapons and ammunition.
Two Palestinians that the IDF identified as the leading owners of the factories were arrested in the raids. The official said that they did not appear to have ties to terrorist groups and were likely motivated by money. “It seems to be a combination of market demand and the ability to manufacture,” he said.
The raids were carried out overnight by a combination of forces from the IDF, Israel Police, and Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet. They were made possible after months of developing “signal intelligence, human intelligence and visual intelligence,” another IDF official said.
There is no reason to believe that any of the weapons manufactured by the arrested gun makers were sold specifically for use in terrorist attacks, the official added. The guns could have been purchased for different reasons, including self-defense, criminal purposes, or terrorism, he added. However, “someone who has one of these weapons at home [for self-defense] might hide it in a closet. And when his son gets carried away by incitement, he goes and takes this weapon to carry out attacks,” the officer said.
While the latest wave of Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians has been nicknamed the “knife intifada,” it also included more than 100 shootings since it began last September, according to Israeli authorities. In response, the IDF and other security agencies have carried out a number of raids in the West Bank in recent months, arresting 140 people and netting over 300 weapons and 50 pieces of machinery.
[Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit ]