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'Smuggling ring' of undocumented Palestinian workers uncovered, Israeli police say

Aug. 8, 2016 7:07 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 29, 2016 5:01 P.M.)
NEGEV (Ma’an) -- Israeli police allegedly uncovered a “smuggling ring” of people involved in transporting undocumented Palestinian workers into Israel, an Israeli police spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

A hearing in an Israeli court was scheduled to be held in Monday to determine the remand for the main suspect, who has been detained.

Israeli police stated that the main suspect was a Palestinian in his mid-twenties from the Bedouin town of Lakiya in Israel’s southern Negev region.

Israeli police have been working on the case for the past several weeks, the statement said, detaining and charging an unspecified number of undocumented Palestinian workers after detecting an unspecified number of vehicles transporting them from the occupied West Bank.

The main suspect also told interrogators that he operated alongside another main suspect, who remained at large.

At the end of July, Israeli police detained 10 Palestinians working in Israel without permits and demolished a camp where the workers were residing near the northern Israeli city of Tamra.

Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers are forced to seek a living by working in Israel due to crippling unemployment in the West Bank, as the growth of an independent Palestinian economy has been stifled under the ongoing Israeli military occupation, according rights groups.

Israeli authorities have imposed a massive crackdown on undocumented workers in Israel in recent months, which initially surged following a deadly attack in the Israeli port of Jaffa in March carried out by a Palestinian who had illegally crossed the border out of the occupied West Bank.

In the wake of a deadly gun attack in Tel Aviv in April, wide-scale raids began anew, detaining dozens of Palestinians, while Israeli authorities also revoked 83,000 permits for Palestinians residing the occupied West Bank to visit Jerusalem and Israel for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Last month, some 2,700 residents of the village of Bani Naim in Hebron had their work permits revoked after a series of attacks and alleged attacks were carried out by residents of the village.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have launched a construction project to build a new separation barrier in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said would protect Israel from “illegal residents” and Palestinian “attackers.”

Netanyahu said in March that since a wave of violence began last fall -- that to date has left some 32 Israelis and 220 Palestinians killed -- “a large proportion of (Palestinian) attackers were present in Israel illegally or infiltrated into Israel illegally.”

However, few Palestinians attackers were in fact workers in Israel, and the recent crackdown on undocumented workers has been condemned by rights groups as a political game, unlikely to affect the violence, yet economically harmful to both Palestinians and Israelis.

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