The Israeli military has updated its open-fire regulations, allowing troops to use live fire against smugglers and suspected thieves on military bases.
The move was made in an effort to crack down on drug and arms smugglers along Israel’s borders with Egypt and Jordan, as well as to stifle crime that has been rampant in Arab and Bedouin communities.
Until now, troops could only open fire if their lives were in immediate danger. The new regulations will allow soldiers to use deadly force against thieves on military bases, at firing ranges, and along the southern borders.
The recommendation to change regulations was adopted by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi.
“Rules of engagement are coordinated with an up-to-date assessment of the situation and operational challenges,” the military said. “In recent weeks, the IDF has been working to implement changes and include them into relevant training programs, so that soldiers will be briefed at their bases from now on with up-to-date orders in accordance with their operational region.”
The IDF has struggled for years to deal with theft from military bases in southern Israel, with thousands of arms and ammunition stolen. Authorities want to stop stolen weapons – including assault rifles and other firearms, grenades and explosives – from ending up in the hands of criminal organizations or terrorist groups in the West Bank.
According to a report in Haaretz, approximately 70% of the 400,000 illegal weapons in the country are thought to have been stolen from either the army or the police. Another report said that from 2013-2020, thousands of weapons have been stolen from the IDF, including at least 482 handguns, 47 m72 LAW (light anti-tank missiles), and two land mines.
But the IDF reported that only 21 firearms had been stolen from bases over the past year, marking a significant decrease from the year before, when the IDF told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that 80 firearms had been stolen.
Last year the IDF reported to the same committee that there were 100 incidents of weapons theft at the IDF’s Ground Forces Training Center from 2018-2020. According to the military, there were about 50 incidents of theft reported per year at the center in southern Israel.
In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, Brig.-Gen. (Res.) Asher Ben Lulu, former chief of staff of Northern Command and CEO of Eshbal, said that many of the weapons stolen in recent years were taken by IDF soldiers along with civilian contractors who worked on military bases who not only had access to bases but knew where the weapons were stored.
Ben Lulu, who formed the committee that recommended how to stop the weapons theft from military bases, said there needs to be better infrastructure and more technology on IDF bases, many of which were built during the time of the British Mandate and have yet to be fitted with modern anti-theft technology, even though NIS 150 million has been set aside for their fitting.
According to Ben Lulu, the IDF does not have a designated body to protect bases from thefts.
“There are not enough soldiers who are professionally trained to guard military bases,” he said. “Right now, not the smartest soldier is guarding the gates. The IDF has to understand that this is a dedicated profession, that the protection of bases needs to have its own body. The IDF has to protect itself better and invest more in its security.”