73,000 bullets, 72 grenades stolen from Golan Heights army base in latest theft

Suspects involved in burglary at Tznobar military site arrested, as Military Police, Shin Bet probe matter; last month, 30,000 rounds were stolen from base in south

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative photo of small-arms ammunition used by the Israeli army (Pierre Terdjman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of small-arms ammunition used by the Israeli army (Pierre Terdjman/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday said it was probing a massive burglary from a military base in the Golan Heights after a preliminary investigation found that over 70,000 rounds of ammunition had been stolen from the site.

In a statement, the IDF confirmed the overnight theft at the Tznobar base near the Israeli town of Katzrin, saying the Military Police were probing the matter.

According to an initial probe of the burglary, 73,000 5.56-millimeter bullets, the kind used in the IDF’s most commonly deployed assault rifles, were missing, along with 72 grenades that are designed to be launched from an M-203 grenade launcher, mounted under the barrel of an assault rifle.

The Shin Bet security agency was also involved in the investigation, and several suspects from the Arab town of Tuba-Zangariyye were detained by police.

According to the probe, police had notified the military of a gang of thieves from Tuba-Zangariyye in the area on Friday night. It was not clear if the burglary had already occurred by the time the Tznobar base was aware of the thieves in the area.

The IDF was also probing if soldiers from the base assisted in the burglary. Further details were barred from publication.

The chief of the IDF’s Northern Command, Maj. Gen Ori Gordin, appointed the commander of the 4th Brigade, Col. Miki Sharvit, to head a “panel of experts” that would investigate the matter.

The findings of the investigation are to be presented to Gordin within a month, the IDF said.

For years, the military has struggled with thefts from its bases, both by soldiers — who have stolen everything from bullets and missiles to army jeeps — and by criminal gangs.

Saturday’s burglary came less than a month after some 30,000 bullets were stolen from a base in southern Israel.

In response to that theft, a military spokesperson said the IDF was working to reduce thefts from bases by improving infrastructure and security.

Security officials fear that stolen ammunition could be used in terror attacks. In March, almost a thousand stolen IDF bullets were found on Islamic State-inspired gunmen who killed two border police officers in a terror attack in Hadera.

Thousands of stolen army bullets have also been seized at checkpoints heading from Israel into the West Bank in recent months.

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