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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter called on the IDF to tighten regulations for weapons storage Thursday, a day after a large and varied stock of weapons including antitank missiles and grenades was stolen from an army base near the Lebanese border.
"The incident is very serious and requires all of the security establishment to give priority treatment to the investigation" into the theft, Dichter said during his weekly situation assessment with police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi. The two meet every Thursday to discuss internal security issues.
The minister asked Karadi to speak with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz to "sharpen" internal IDF rules to avoid similar instances in the future. Dichter said that the weapons stolen could be used for either criminal or terror-related purposes.
The Israel Police and Military Police are cooperating in the investigation into the theft, which occurred at a base in a western Galilee community. In addition to large quantities of rifles and ammunition, thieves made off with more than 150 fragmentation grenades and 11 LAW missiles. The missiles, originally designed for antitank warfare, have become extremely popular with the criminal underworld.
Since the mob wars of the late nineties, crime syndicate heads have put more effort into personal defense, traveling in bullet-proof cars and in motorcades. As a result, handguns have become less effective in carrying out high-profile intra-gang killings and criminals have turned to missiles such as the LAW.
In recent years, the LAW missile has become almost synonymous with organized crime hit attempts. A potential disaster was narrowly averted in 2004 when a plan to fire one of the missiles at a wedding hall was foiled.
A year later, police foiled two similar plots in the course of one week after they discovered a LAW missile ready for launch hidden in bushes outside the Eilat municipal soccer stadium, near the city's airport.
Days earlier, yet another such missile was found near the Hora Junction in the Negev where it was supposedly to be used in an alleged plan to assassinate reputed crime kingpin Itzik Abergil.
In January, members of a rival crime family fired a LAW missile at the Netanya home of suspected crime lord Assi Abutbul, and four months later, a Netanya resident, suspected of organized crime activity, was arrested when police discovered a LAW missile in his car.