Two Israeli army soldiers were arrested recently on suspicion of stealing weapons from their base with the intention of selling them on the black market.
One of the soldiers, who were not named in a Hadashot TV report on the arrests Thursday, was reportedly seen on a security camera carrying a duffel bag apparently packed with stolen munitions, as he walked through the Beersheba central bus station.
The soldiers are suspected of breaking into the armory at their base near the Gaza Strip and taking guns along with thousands of rounds of ammunition, the report said. They apparently intended to trade the haul in the country’s southern Bedouin community.
An attorney for one of the suspects told Hadashot that his client denies the charges against him.
Police said indictments will be filed in the coming days against the suspects on charges of weapons dealing and conspiracy to commit a crime. Officers noted the weapons seized were only a small fraction of the illegal guns finding their way from army bases to the Bedouin community.
Last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police to crack down on lawlessness in the Bedouin community after a video went viral showing apparent massive celebratory firing of M16 assault rifles at a wedding in a residential neighborhood.
The footage showed men firing into the air from several vehicles. It was apparently filmed in the area of the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom, southeast of Beersheba. Shooting is not uncommon at Arab weddings.
One man was later arrested in connection with the incident.
As part of the drive against illegal weapons, the government last month gave initial approval to a law that would mandate a five-year prison sentence for illegal gunfire, prepared by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked after determining that the existing law doesn’t adequately address the current situation.
Punishments for such offenses had been lenient and enforcement was ineffective, Erdan said at the time.