(photo credit: INIMAGE)
A group of burglars who stalked IDF soldiers on weekend leave to steal their service rifles was indicted this week.
The indictment came almost a month after they were busted in an operation involving police disguised as soldiers. The cops rented a house in Zichron Ya’acov to snare the suspects.
The suspects were named as Abed Al Rahman Mahmiad, 39, and Khaled Gazayel, 20, both from Kafr Kari, and Ahmed Yunes, 21, and Karam Masade, 20, both from Arara. The men were indicted on Wednesday by the Haifa District Court and now face a series of weapons charges in addition to counts for conspiracy and breaking and entering.
The indictment says the accused group staked out the train station in Binyamina every weekend for over a month this spring. They would then follow soldiers on weekend leave bearing their rifles after which they would follow them to their homes and allegedly return later to break in and steal the weapons.
In a video statement released once the arrests were made public, Cmdr. Benny Avlaya, head of the Coastal District’s special investigations unit, said police heard about a number of burglaries in Zichron Ya’acov and Hadera in May in which IDF assault rifles were stolen. Investigations revealed that in every case, before the burglary took place, a soldier on leave for the weekend had come home from the same train station in Binyamina. In each case, there had been a service weapon in the house and the rifles – but nothing else – were stolen.
Avlaya said that owing to fears that the weapons would find their way into the hands of organized crime families or even terrorist groups, they set up a sting operation involving dozens of detectives who began staking out the Binyamina station each weekend.
Police would dress undercover officers in IDF uniforms and walk out of the station into a waiting car that would then travel to a house in Zichron Ya’acov that police rented and that had been rigged with hidden cameras.
On the evening of June 25, a detective dressed as a soldier carrying an assault rifle walked out of the station and into the car and proceeded to the safe house.
According to the indictment, two of the defendants, Mahmiad and Gazayel, followed him to the house, where they returned that night and were caught breaking in. In a video released by police, one of the suspects can be seen pulling two rifles out from under a bed in the house. Around a dozen plainclothes and uniformed police then rushed in to apprehend the criminals.
IDF assault rifles can sell for between NIS 50,000-NIS 70,000 on the black market.
The Tavor fetches particularly high prices. For that reason, burglars frequently rob houses specifically to steal IDF firearms they can then sell or use for underworld shootings.