Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in December arrested four Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs who stole assault rifles from a settlement and an IDF base, police announced on Tuesday after a gag order on the case was lifted.

In both incidents, the cell stole M-16 assault rifles, after carrying out surveillance on their targets for several weeks.

In one case, members of the cell infiltrated the IDF’s Ramah Base, north of Jerusalem, and beat and robbed a soldier of his M-16, and in another they stole a rifle from a guard post at the Ma’aleh Michmash settlement, northeast of Jerusalem.

Both Ramah and Ma’aleh Michmash are in the Binyamin Region of the West Bank.

Judea and Samaria Police said the cell made the acquaintance of the guards at Ma’aleh Michmash who were two Israeli Arabs from the Galilee in their 30s, who gave them intelligence that helped them locate and steal the weapons from the guard post.

The two guards were also arrested and remain in custody, police said on Tuesday.

In a press release, police referred to the group as “a sophisticated and aggressive cell that did not show hesitation, that infiltrated an IDF base and robbed an IDF soldier of his weapon while using serious violence against him.”

Police said that all of the suspects have confessed to their involvement in the thefts, and that they would remain in custody until the end of legal proceedings against them.

When asked if police know if the weapons were to be used for terrorist attacks, criminal purposes or to be sold on the market – where an M-16 can fetch more than NIS 60,000 – police said they still have not determined exactly what the cell planned to do with the weapons.

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