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Palestinians blame Israel for Gaza drug trade

Gaza is experiencing a surge in illegal drug trafficking, addiction and crime.
Palestinian authorities confiscate illegal drugs in Gaza.

Captagon, tramadol, marijuana, or ecstasy and happiness pills, as locals call them, have been pouring into the Gaza Strip in large quantities compared to the relatively low population of Gaza amounting to slightly over 2 million people.

Iyad al-Buzum, spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “The products that enter Gaza from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing are thoroughly inspected by the [Israeli] occupation authorities, which have advanced screening devices.”

“Most of the drugs that are seized inside the Gaza Strip come from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing,” he said.

Buzum holds Israel responsible for flooding the coastal enclave with drugs, with the aim of destroying the youth and spreading crime in society.

“Amid the strict measures of the Anti-Narcotics Department to control and stop drug smuggling and promotion within the enclave, drug dealers have raised their prices,” Buzum added.

He stressed that these narcotics are a serious problem threatening society, which prompts the Interior Ministry and the Anti-Narcotics Department to give the matter the highest priority.

“This is why all trucks coming daily from the Kerem Shalom crossing are carefully examined and searched once they enter the enclave,” Buzum said. “We rely on traditional tools, mainly manual inspection with the help of police dogs only. We have no advanced devices to detect narcotic substances.”

Israel has been preventing the importation of advanced screening devices into Gaza, according to Buzum.

According to the Interior Ministry’s data, throughout 2022 until the writing of the report, the Anti-Narcotic Department has seized 2,009 hashish bags; 7,958 tramadol tablets; 98,168 Captagon pills; 255,671 different narcotic pills; 8 kilograms of banjo; 100 banjo seedlings; and 1,000 banjo seeds.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Qidra, director of the Anti-Narcotics Department in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Gaza, like the rest of the world, suffers from drugs. This problem has worsened significantly in the recent period, according to statistics, whether inside Gaza or other countries.”

“This is particularly true with the spread of hallucinogenic narcotic pills, which are the most prevalent among drug users and addicts. We have seen a huge number of these pills pouring in the coastal enclave recently,” he said.

“We don’t have strong control over the smuggling outlets, as drugs enter Gaza through five main outlets — the first and the most dangerous of which is the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing, followed by the Beit Hanoun-Erez crossing, the Rafah crossing for travelers and commercial goods, as well the land border tunnels and sea borders,” Qidra explained.

He added that on Oct. 20, 4,000 Captagon pills were seized. They were hidden in a shipment of clothes that entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing, Qidra said, denouncing the new and innovative smuggling methods used by dealers and smugglers.

“The Anti-Narcotics Department necessitates many advanced devices and equipment, such as an X-ray device to examine trucks in commercial crossings. Currently, we only inspect goods manually with the help of police dogs. This is not enough and takes a long time, which could damage some of the [imported] goods,” Qidra added.

He also explained that the Israeli siege on Gaza also plays a major role in hindering police work, as many international institutions are reluctant to deal with the security services in Gaza.

“Interpol does not cooperate with our security and police services. This is why we cannot pursue drug dealers abroad who supply Gaza or traders who have fled the coastal enclave to other countries,” he said.

Qidra also mentioned that in their fight against drugs, the Anti-Narcotics Department policemen engage in shootings with drug dealers, risking their lives.

In August, a policeman lost his eye during an exchange of fire with a wanted dealer in Deir el-Balah in central Gaza. In early October, a shooting broke out with some drug traders in al-Zuawayda, resulting in the killing of two policemen.

In late 2021, the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza made amendments to the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Law No. 7 of 2013, in which the punishment for dealers was increased up to the death penalty.

The amendments also included punishment for electronic drug marketing and encryption of sites that promote drugs.

Drug use is also now considered a misdemeanor and not a felony, according to the amended text.

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