Iran has been funneling weapons to Islamic jihadists at a frightening pace over the past year — some delivered by drone, a new report has found.
The rogue Middle Eastern regime has been smuggling guns and missiles into the occupied West Bank territory east of Israel and Lebanon to the north, some disguised as aid packages, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The weapons have largely been destined for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — a group completely separate from Gaza-based Hamas, which launched the devastating terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that left more than 1,400 dead.
“The weapons flow has really increased, specifically over the past year … This is because Iran has been much more focused on the West Bank recently, and trying to arm some of the groups there,” said Michael Horowitz, the Israel-based head of intelligence for the consulting firm Le Beck International.
The Iranian supply route goes through Iraq and Syria, then through either Lebanon or Jordan — one of the US’ strongest allies in the region — and on to the intended destination, according to the report.
“Iran wants to turn Jordan into a transit area for weapons going into Israel,” Amer Al-Sabaileh, founder of Security Languages, a counterterrorism think tank in Amman, told the WSJ.
“But my fear is that the weapons might be used in Jordan as well. Where is the easiest place in the Middle East to punish the US and the West? Jordan.”
Weapons smuggled through Jordan include Iranian copies of US Claymore antipersonnel mines, M4-style assault rifles, and TNT explosives, a senior Jordanian official told the outlet.
The Israeli border forces, who occupy the West Bank, have also confiscated antipersonnel mines made in Iran and Russia, according to a report from Terrogence, an information network that advises the Israeli police.
The arms are typically carried from Syria into Jordan in trucks, which can be hard to spot as they drive off-road through the desert, WSJ said.
Iran’s scheme also uses drones: In February, Jordanian officials downed an unmanned aerial vehicle from Syria with four hand grenades on board.
Even cheap commercial drones can carry two assault weapons at a time — and are hard to catch, an unnamed Jordanian security official told the outlet.
“We only see drones by chance,” he admitted.
Meanwhile, the Iranian airline Mahan has been hauling weapons into Syria under the guise of aid, a Central Intelligence Agency operative and various officials told the WSJ.
“The Iranians are investing lots of efforts in inflaming all arenas, in the north and the West Bank alike,” a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said. “The IDF is reinforcing the troops and ready for every possibility.”
“The country is awash with weapons,” a gun shop owner in downtown Amman added.
In May, Jordanian lawmaker Imad al-Adwan was detained for trying to smuggle over 200 firearms into the West Bank, which is occupied by Israeli military forces, the outlet said.
He has been extradited from Israel to Jordan, where he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Meanwhile, other Jordanian officials are feeling the pressure to quell the Middle East’s gun-running problem by itself.
“Jordan is playing a pivotal role in preventing smuggling of narcotics and weapons,” said Mohammad Afeef, a former president of Jordan’s State Security Court.
“It is a huge burden for us.”
Parts of the West Bank are monitored by the Palestinian Authority, which is opposed to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, WSJ noted.
Over the past two years, police working for the Palestinian Authority have seized between 600 and 1,000 weapons per year in the West Bank — more than twice the number in 2021, the outlet said.
Concerns over the West Bank’s weapons cache have only increased since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas earlier this month.
Tensions are also very high in the occupied territory. Fifty-five people were killed in the week after Oct. 7 — the deadliest week for West Bank Palestinians since 2005, per the United Nations.
On Friday, 13 Palestinians were killed when the Israel Defense Forces launched a 30-hour operation to clear out militants from refugee camps in the region, WSJ said.
One arms dealer in Al-Ram told the outlet that he is selling hundreds of weapons per month, mainly to people who want to defend their homes and villages in the absence of official Palestinian security.
“There’s a big demand nowadays, but I tell you all of them are very young,” he said.
As the Israel-Hamas war appears to be gearing up for a long haul, Horowitz warned that the flow of arms into the West Bank could perpetuate a “cycle of violence” as the IDF deploys more forces to the area.