Israel’s Shin Bet security agency and customs officers have intercepted 15 tons of sulphuric acid, a key component for explosives such as nitroglycerin and TNT, which were heading for the Gaza Strip.
The discovery was made last week at Israel’s Nitzana border crossing, when a 30 ton shipment of paint thinner aroused suspicion as it was “bubbling and with a strong smell” according to the Customs Office.
On inspection, the material was found to be 90 per cent acid concentrate, a mixture used in the composition of TNT.
The truck carrying the shipment was then stopped at the Kerem Shalom crossing, before it could enter the enclave, the authorities said.
“Three tons of TNT explosives could have been made out of this material … We suspect that the sulphuric acid was disguised as paint thinner so that it could enter the Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing, in the framework of reconstruction work in Gaza,” the Customs Office said.
All those involved with the shipment would face legal proceedings, it said.
In March, Israel’s Defence Ministry said that since the start of 2015, more than 100 attempts “to smuggle forbidden goods and substances” had been thwarted by Israeli forces.
They have included rocket-building materials, sulphur rods and electronic welding devices, all likely to be used by Hamas to strengthen its offensive capabilities.
During 2015, Israel has introduced a range of measures meant to ease movement in and out of the Gaza Strip, in order to aid reconstruction. These include an increased number of entry and exit permits to Gaza merchants and facilitating the export of significant Gaza produce to the West Bank, an important market for the Gaza economy.
Hamas, which violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, has found itself facing rare challenges. Egypt has closed the Rafah border crossing almost entirely and destroyed a network of smuggling tunnels from the Sinai
Peninsula. Meanwhile, Sunni Islamists, some affiliated with ISIS have challenged Hamas’s authority in Gaza.
Nonetheless, Hamas is thought to be rearming, developing new rockets and complex tunnels designed to attack Israel.