Police said they arrested a Palestinian man on Sunday who they believe broke into a highly sensitive Israeli Air Force base two weeks earlier after allegedly stealing a car, leading security forces on an hours-long manhunt within the facility.
Alongside the Palestinian man, police arrested two Israeli accomplices — a taxi driver from the Bedouin town of Arara and a resident of the desert town of Dimona, where the initial car theft allegedly took place — who were suspected of helping the man make his escape from the base. None of their names have been released. Police said the Palestinian suspect was a 20-year-old from the southern West Bank village of Dahariya who had entered Israel illegally.
According to the police, the three men worked as a team to steal the car from Dimona, with the plan being to drive it to the West Bank and resell it there.
When police began chasing the Palestinian suspect, he drove into the Nevatim air base — home to the F-35 stealth fighter jet, the military’s most advanced aircraft — through a gate that had been left open, puncturing the vehicle’s tires on security spikes. He continued on foot into the city-sized base, leading to a massive search involving ground troops, helicopters and special forces, which ended some seven hours later after it was determined that the suspect had in fact fled the base less than an hour after entering, according to the military.
Police said that after the man climbed out of the base undetected, he was picked up by the taxi driver, who ferried him to the West Bank.
The incident represented an embarrassing, highly public breach of security for what is considered one of the air force’s most important bases, which should be more difficult to break into than by simply driving through a gate and running inside.
“The incident will be investigated and the necessary lessons will be learned,” the military said in a statement at the time.
All three men were arrested on Sunday and were scheduled to be brought before a Beersheba court on charges of “stealing a car, endangering lives on a roadway, entering an IDF facility, and being [in Israel] illegally,” police said, the latter charge referring only to the Palestinian suspect.