February 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Thwarts Drug Smuggling Attempts From Egypt

February 12, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel Thwarts Drug Smuggling Attempts From Egypt

Latest Developments

Israeli forces announced on February 11 that they thwarted an attempt to smuggle $14 million worth of drugs across the Egypt-Israel border earlier in the month. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli police said one trafficker approached the border in an all-terrain vehicle carrying nearly 300 pounds of heroin, cocaine, and hashish. The drug bust, according to the Israeli military, was “unprecedented” in scale. An additional $8 million of cocaine was announced as intecepted the evening of February 10.

The foiled smuggling attempts come as the IDF prepares to expand operations in Rafah, along the Egyptian border. In turn, Egypt has taken measures to shore up its border security. On February 9, Cairo said that it had sent approximately 40 tanks and armored personnel carriers to the Gaza border in recent weeks. The heads of the Israeli and Egyptian intelligence agencies also spoke on January 29 about possible security cooperation along the Egypt-Gaza border.

Expert Analysis

“The October 7 crisis offers both Cairo and Jerusalem a golden opportunity to tackle the long-existing issue of smuggling across the border — especially if Israel takes over the Philadelphi Corridor. If both sides can recognize that in closed rooms, they can utilize Israel’s weakening of Iran-backed Hamas to maximize future border security.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

“Egypt and Israel must work together to secure the Egyptian territory that runs along both the Israeli and Gazan borders. The cross-border smuggling from the Siani has enriched criminals and provided genocidal terrorists with a lethal arsenal. There is precedence for this type of cooperation between Jerusalem and Cairo, and it is in both of their interests to clamp down on the illegal and terrorist activity in this dangerous border region.” — Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

Cross-Border Smuggling

For years, tunnels running under the Egypt-Gaza border have facilitated terrorist activity and illicit commerce. Criminals leverage the subterranean route to transport drugs into Gaza. Hamas also uses the smuggling route to transport weapons and everyday goods. Hamas taxes and charges customs on these everyday goods, creating a significant source of revenue for the terrorist group. It is likely that Hamas exploited this smuggling route to build its weapons arsenal in Gaza.

Border Tensions

Cairo warned Jerusalem on January 22 that an Israeli operation along Egypt’s border with Gaza would present a “serious threat” to Egypt-Israel relations and cross a “red line.” Egypt has also threatened to abrogate its peace treaty with Israel in response to reports that the IDF seeks to destroy the network of illicit Hamas tunnels that connect Egypt and Gaza.

Egypt Threatens to Suspend Peace Treaty With Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel, Egypt Consider Shared Border Security,” FDD Flash Brief

Cairo Warns Against Israeli Operation on Egypt-Gaza Border,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Tunnels to Egypt Played Key Role in Arming Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief


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