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Four IDF officers dismissed, 11 others punished after guns stolen from base

Dozens of weapons stolen from base in northern Israel last month, in a case that’s been largely barred from publication

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

Illustrative: M-16 assault rifles retrieved by police after they were stolen from an army base on May 27, 2017. (Police spokesperson)
Illustrative: M-16 assault rifles retrieved by police after they were stolen from an army base on May 27, 2017. (Police spokesperson)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi meted out disciplinary actions against 15 officers and soldiers on Tuesday, including against senior commanders, for failing to prevent the theft of dozens of guns from an armory in northern Israel last month, the military said.

Four officers, including a lieutenant colonel, were dismissed from their positions and a colonel will be barred from promotion for the next four years over the incident, the Israel Defense Forces said.

It was a dramatic move by Kohavi, meant to send a message to the military that such thefts of military weapons and equipment will not be tolerated.

Last month, several dozen weapons were stolen from a base in the IDF Northern Command. Many details of the case, including the precise number of guns, the location and the identities of the suspects, cannot be published due to a court-issued gag order.

Following the theft, IDF chief Kohavi ordered an internal investigation into the matter — on top of the criminal probe — to determine how the theft took place and what could have prevented it.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, sits with head of the IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Amir Baram, left, during a visit to northern Israel on November 29, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The chief of staff received the findings of the investigatory committee and determined that this was a case of the utmost severity, as seen from the results. Deep lacunae and failures were found,” the military said in a statement.

The theft of guns from IDF bases has long been an issue for the military. As a result, in recent years the IDF has invested millions of shekels in advanced security systems for armories. However, the investigation found that on the base where the last month’s theft took place the main armory was indeed well protected, but a secondary arsenal was left almost entirely unguarded.

In light of this case, Kohavi ordered the military to speed up the installation and implementation of these security measures and to train troops accordingly.

“The chief of staff clarified that protecting IDF property and IDF bases is a basic requirement that is expected of all commanders and soldiers… He also determined that the lacunae that were found [were present] throughout the chain of command in the brigade,” the military said.

As a result, the punishments that were handed down Tuesday were against low-ranking soldiers, junior officers and senior commanders. Their names and specific positions cannot be published due to the gag order.

The commander of the brigade where the theft took place will not be eligible for a promotion in rank until the summer of 2024, “due to his overall responsibility for what happens in his unit,” the IDF said.

His deputy will be dismissed from his position, subject to a hearing, for “negligence in his position and for his overall responsibility for the security and logistics of the base,” the military said.

The brigade’s former logistics officer, a major, will be dismissed from his new position, subject to a hearing, and will not be eligible for a senior post until the summer of 2022.

The brigade’s security officer, a captain, and a logistics non-commissioned officer will be dismissed, pending a hearing.

The brigade’s current logistics officer, a major, will receive an official reprimand from his division commander. The division’s logistics officer, a lieutenant colonel, will face a disciplinary hearing by the division commander.

Eight members of the security detail who were on-call on the night in question, five of them officers, will face a disciplinary hearing from the deputy division commander for negligence.

The NCO responsible for overseeing the brigade’s security systems will receive an official reprimand from the brigade commander.

“This case demonstrated irresponsibility, a lack of basic professionalism as seen in the gaps in knowledge regarding [military] protocols, a lack of precision in following orders, a lack of operational ability in terms of guarding weaponry and gaps in personal responsibility. The chief of staff stressed that just demonstrating personal responsibility would have been enough to prevent this incident,” the military said.

The Israel Police and Military Police’s criminal probe into the theft is ongoing, the IDF added.

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