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Powder Keg under Wraps

Aharon Granot, Kfar A-Ram

In hostile Arab territory, innocent factories can mask dangerous secrets, as I learned on a nighttime raid with a special IDF force

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

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DARK SECRETS It’’s the wee hours of the morning — — actually nearing dawn. Most locals won’’t be awake to hear the huge trucks thundering into A-Ram, accompanied by forklifts and legal advisors, who ensure that they only take what can be used as evidence in the trials of the factory owners (Photos: IDF Spokesperson)

M ore than anything else, it is the darkness that scares me. Blackness envelops the village like a thick blanket. I know where I am — — on the northeast outskirts of Jerusalem, in the heart of the hostile Arab village of A-Ram, but the darkness is so absolute that I can’’t see a thing.

For just one night, I’’ve embedded with a special team on a mission to unmask a covert weapons factory in Arab territory. We march in absolute silence; it’’s essential that we retain the element of surprise. Our targets must not know we are here — — otherwise they might try to flee, destroy incriminating evidence, or spark riots.

We walk toe-to-heel. I’’m wearing ceramic body armor weighing a few dozen pounds; the soldiers surrounding me bear the same protective gear, along with their weapons and lots of heavy equipment. The only sound is the adrenalized breathing of the troops.

My thoughts flit back to the briefing I received earlier from Colonel Yuval Gez and Major Oz Gino. Gez commands the Binyamin Division, and came to this assignment from previous posts overseeing the Special Forces Unit and Brigade 101. Gino is the deputy commander of the division, which includes a Home Front Command search-and-rescue team.

““You see,”” said Major Gino, pointing at a map of A-Ram, indicating a complex of large industrial buildings. ““Those are factories that manufacture weapons for terror organizations. They exist all over and our job is to expose them, confiscate the machines, and arrest the factory owners who produce these illegal weapons.””

Tonight, however, the buildings appear to be simple metal-works factories, producing only what they advertise: steel gates and soragim, the ubiquitous bars found on the windows of Israeli apartments. All perfectly legal. What would justify an IDF raid?

““You won’’t see it because they know how to hide it,”” Gino told me earlier. ““But I have no doubt these buildings conceal a large weapons factory. We don’’t raid a site like this based only on a hunch. We raid only after it is 100 percent clear that weapons are being made.””

““Once upon a time it was a lengthy process — — conducting interviews, collecting information, arresting people, and waiting for them to talk,”” Colonel Gez added. ““Today, we need no more than 12 hours. These guys send each other computerized messages, they speak about it openly with one another. We have professionals who track their digital communications. Our quarry can send out their information in the morning and get a visit from us the same night.””

When a raid is arranged, it’’s not just soldiers involved. There are also police forces and General Security Service personnel, who have amassed the intelligence information.

““Really,”” said Gez, ““the entire operation is directed by the police, who know what to look for. The soldiers organize the search while the police look for evidence.””

A Stubborn Padlock

Now, as we near the factory, the soldiers are fully alert. The gloom could be hiding a terrorist lying in wait; if not, even a minor encounter with a local resident could quickly ignite a huge riot.

We reach the perimeter of the industrial complex. Flashlight beams cut through the blackness, lighting a path to the factory entrance, which is secured with a sturdy padlock. If our intelligence is accurate, a major weapons factory lies beyond this gate. The soldiers try with a series of master keys to open the padlock, to no avail. Meanwhile, precious minutes tick off the clock. Toolboxes are lugged out and various pliers, cutters, and utensils are applied against the stubborn padlock, still to no effect. The intransigence of this lock strongly suggests that there is something inside that the owners don’’t want us to see. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 671)

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