GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Plumes of marijuana-infused smoke rose above Gaza City as dozens of people looked on after Gaza’s Hamas rulers announced a major drug bust on Sunday, torching large sacks of confiscated drugs in a bonfire.
Hamas displayed tables full of marijuana, neatly pressed blocks of hashish, small piles of cocaine and ecstasy pills at a news conference to show the results of a two-week-long drug raid, said Ihab Ghussain, spokesman for the Interior Ministry. He said the raid netted 115 arrests of dealers and growers, and more than 200 kilos (440 pounds) of marijuana, 340 blocks of hashish and 2,340 marijuana plants were confiscated. Ghussain said some of the drugs, valued at $4 million (¤2.7 million), were smuggled through tunnels into Gaza from Egypt.
“We have closed almost 90 percent of these tunnels,” Ghussain said, but did not say how many tunnels the militant group found.
Ghussain blamed the rival Palestinian group Fatah for allowing drugs to flourish in Gaza, and said they collaborated with Israel to destroy the area’s youth. “We will not show mercy to anybody involved in the death trade,” Ghussain said.
The drugs were later burned in a square, with Hamas police emptying out large bags of marijuana onto a fire, and others tossing in hashish blocs. The police then ordered a crowd of onlookers to step away.
Hamas violently seized control of Gaza last June after routing pro-Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. The drug bust was Hamas’ latest attempt to impose law and order in Gaza since the takeover.
Although Gaza is a conservative Muslim society, drug use is common among young men. Already, alcohol, which is prohibited under Islam, is almost impossible to obtain in Gaza. Militants blew up Gaza’s last bar in 2005.