Retrieved weapons stolen from an IDF base in southern Israel.
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot has officially reprimanded the outgoing commander of the Givati Brigade Col. Yaron Finkelman following the theft of 33 M-16s from the Sde Teiman base in May.
The internal military investigation was conducted by Col. Nir Rosenberg, and the result were presented to the chief of staff last week.
While all involved in the theft have been arrested and more than half of the stolen weapons were recovered, according to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, Eisenkot viewed this matter as a “very serious incident as the weapons may be used for terrorist attacks.”
Following the incident, the commander of the Sde Teiman base was dismissed from his position and several officers were reprimanded.
According to the investigation carried out by the Israel Police, the Military Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the contractor who won the tender to work at the base employed a subcontractor whose workers were part of a criminal network and responsible for the theft. The workers employed by the subcontractor are said to have allowed additional people into the base who gained the trust of the soldiers who were supposed to be guarding them as they worked.
The probe found that one of the workers cut the lock of the warehouse where the weapons were and took the 33 M-16s before replacing the lock on the door. With no sign of a break-in, the theft was only noticed a couple of days later.
The commission of inquiry that dealt with the incident also found that the soldiers on the base were found to have only been trained in how to deal with a case of theft following an external infiltration, not one that happened inside the base.
Following the recommendations of the inquiry, the IDF will implement a new security procedure for the employment of contractors in military bases, and a special discussion will be held with the Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
There will also be increased security at bases, especially on-base armories, with biometric scanners, additional cameras and improved locks.
Despite police and IDF working to stop the thieving of guns and other weapons from bases, both by soldiers serving on them and by residents of surrounding communities, the phenomenon has intensified, a senior IDF officer said shortly after the theft. The stolen weapons, which can include machine guns, grenades and explosives, sometimes end up in the hands of criminal organizations or terrorist groups in the West Bank.
In May, thieves broke into the Tze’elim army base in southern Israel, escaping with a cutting-edge and expensive thermal vision device and two weeks earlier thieves managed to steal several weapons from an IDF base on the Golan Heights. The thieves, two residents of Tuba-Zanghariya, were later arrested but the M-16 rifles have still not been located.
In July of last year an IDF army captain, his driver and his driver’s father were indicted for allegedly stealing anti-tank missiles, 77 shrapnel grenades, and a Matador missile from a base in the Negev desert. They are suspected of selling the weapons on the black market for thousands of shekels.
The theft of the weapons in Sde Teiman came just a week after a new directive was announced which allows soldiers to shoot at the legs of thieves attempting to steal weapons from bases and training grounds. Until then soldiers were forbidden from firing at thieves even if they caught them red-handed.