Palestinians, Israeli Arabs accused of stealing IDF general’s classified laptop
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Palestinians, Israeli Arabs accused of stealing IDF general’s classified laptop

Hagai Topolanski was forced to step down after the computer, which police say they have not recovered, was stolen last year

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, speaks at an Israeli Democracy Institute conference marking 30 years since navigator Ron Arad went missing over Lebanon, on November 29, 2016. (Courtesy Israeli Democracy Institute)
Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, speaks at an Israeli Democracy Institute conference marking 30 years since navigator Ron Arad went missing over Lebanon, on November 29, 2016. (Courtesy Israeli Democracy Institute)

A group of six Arab Israeli and Palestinian men stand accused of stealing a laptop containing classified information from an IDF general last year, the police announced on Monday.

The six, who came from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Bedouin villages in southern Israel, committed five thefts in total in the communities of Arugot and Kfar Ahim, outside Kiryat Malahi in central Israel, according to police.

There was no evidence the group targeted Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, whose home was among those burglarized.

After his military computer was stolen from his home in December, Topolanski opted to resign from the military. The police did not recover the general’s laptop, a police spokesperson said.

The six main suspects in the case were arrested in early February. Indictments have been filed against four of the suspects and the other two were set to be charged in court on Monday, police said.

“We used the best of our forces and capabilities… in order to put those responsible for harming the personal security and quality of life of local residents behind bars,” police said in a statement.

Police described the operation as “sophisticated.”

According to investigators, the six alleged thieves were divided into three separate “cells,” which assisted one another, including helping the Palestinian members, who had entered Israel illegally, find places to stay.

In addition to breaking into homes, the teams also stole cars, keeping them in an area until they could “cool off,” before they could be moved to the West Bank for resale, police said.

From left, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot raise a toast at a ceremony in which Almoz received his major general's rank and a promotion to take over for Topolanski as head of the IDF's Manpower Directorate on January 5, 2017, in the army's Tel Aviv headquarters. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
From left, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz, Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot raise a toast at a ceremony in which Almoz received his major general’s rank and a promotion to take over for Topolanski as head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate on January 5, 2017, in the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Topolanski served as the head of the Israel Defense Force’s Manpower Directorate until his sudden resignation.

He was replaced by IDF Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz. Col. Ronen Manelis was chosen earlier this month to replace Almoz, but has yet to take over the position.

It was not clear what was on Topolanski’s stolen computer, and whether it contained top-secret information or simply classified army programs.

Depending on what information was present on the computer and how it was stored, Topolanski could face legal action.

To prevent leaks of classified information, the army forbids officers from leaving army computers unprotected, requiring them to be kept in a safe when taken off-base. The army metes out severe punishments to officers who allow military computers or other sensitive equipment to be stolen on their watch.

This month, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eiesnkot halted the promotion of a colonel after classified documents were stolen from the officer’s car.

Last year, Col. Ilan Levy was summarily dismissed from his position after classified documents were stolen from his car, where he accidentally left them. The stolen documents were smuggled into the West Bank, where they were later recovered by the Shin Bet.

In October, a lieutenant colonel in the air force was suspended for two weeks after an army computer was stolen from his house.

And earlier this year, the head of Israel’s missile defense program, Yair Ramati, was dismissed from his post amid allegations that he too had improperly maintained state secrets.

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