IDF ‘logistically unprepared’ to continue West Bank arrest op, comptroller warns

Investigation finds reservist troops missing essential equipment, given faulty guns, while Kfir training base has poor living conditions

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

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers hold a drill simulating an infiltration of terrorists into the settlement of Elazar in the West Bank, September 21, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers hold a drill simulating an infiltration of terrorists into the settlement of Elazar in the West Bank, September 21, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces is “logistically unprepared” to continue the major arrest operation in the West Bank begun earlier this year following a series of terror attacks, according to an “urgent” state comptroller report released Sunday.

The State Comptroller’s Office found that reservist troops serving at the Yakir military post, near the settlement of the same name in the central West Bank, were missing essential equipment, and conscripts being trained at the Kfir Brigade training base had poor living conditions.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said he had conducted the snap check amid the IDF’ months-long arrest operation in the West Bank, launched after a series of attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May.

The IDF has more than doubled its presence in the West Bank and along the security barrier, increasing the number of battalions in the area from around 13 to 26.

The report said that troops stationed at the Yakir base claimed they were missing equipment used in operational activities, notably certain weapons and vehicles. The report also noted the poor management of the base’s armory, with troops complaining about the quality of the guns they were supplied with, many of which jammed.

Another issue raised at the Yakir base was that it was currently housing two battalions instead of the usual one, leading to an extra load on the kitchen and adversely affecting the quality and quantity of food.

Israeli soldiers from the Kfir Brigade arrest a suspect in the West Bank, September 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

A separate issue raised by Golani troops currently stationed at the Yakir base was that they were becoming less ready for their designated role in northern Israel. By spending lengthy periods in the West Bank, the reservist troops were not spending enough time training for a potential war with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, officers and troops told Englman.

At the Kfir Brigade training base, the report noted the poor living conditions, which included lack of shade, broken air conditioning units, and no cold water drinking fountains in the sweltering Jordan Valley heat.

The Kfir Brigade predominantly serves in the West Bank, conducting arrest operations and protecting settlements.

“The IDF is not sufficiently prepared, logistically, for the continuation of the fighting in [the West Bank],” Englman said.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, February 23, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces said in response to the report that the shortcomings do not harm troops’ competence and readiness, but added that some had already been dealt with after Englman’s visits in August while others were still being worked on.

The army’s vehicles at the Yakir base, for example, are heavily used, and therefore the IDF was working to expand its maintenance network, following the report.

The IDF was unaware of issues with the Yakir base armory, specifically regarding faulty weapons that Englman noted in the report.

The IDF said it does not maintain backup infrastructure for every scenario due to the high costs, but would adjust the time it takes to accept additional troops in cases of large-scale bolstering of forces.

The IDF’s anti-terror offensive has seen over 100 Palestinians killed and more than 2,000 arrested in nightly raids in the West Bank.

The military launched the arrest operations after a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May. In another suspected attack in September, an elderly woman was killed by a Palestinian man in the central city of Holon.

Israeli troops have repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids in Palestinian cities in the West Bank. During an operation in May, a police commando was killed as troops were wrapping up an arrest operation in the Jenin area. Last month, a senior IDF officer was killed in a gun battle with Palestinians on the northern West Bank security barrier.

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