IDF official says lax security led to theft of 30,000 bullets from base

In burglary compared to ‘military operation,’ thieves broke into armory, stole ammunition from Sde Teiman base without being noticed

An IDF soldier seen silhouetted as he is walking through the fields near his army base, in Beersheba, southern Israel, March 31, 2014 (Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90)
An IDF soldier seen silhouetted as he is walking through the fields near his army base, in Beersheba, southern Israel, March 31, 2014 (Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90)

The Israel Defense Forces is probing a massive burglary from the Sde Teiman military base in the south of Israel after a preliminary investigation found that 30,000 bullets had been stolen from the site.

An IDF official told the Walla news site that the burglary was “like a military operation,” and that the thieves must have studied the base’s “not-so-complicated” security measures before the break-in.

“What worries me is that they were able to break in, locate the exact bunker, dislodge the windows without anyone hearing, and enter undisturbed. Also, loading the ammunition takes time. If there was deterrence this wouldn’t have happened,” the source said.

Soldiers serving at the base told Walla that they had seen Arabs loitering around the base on a regular basis. However, the IDF official contended that it was impossible to learn the location of the ammunition bunker from an outside viewpoint. Therefore, it is possible that the thieves were aided from the inside.

“What we know is that the southern commander is seething over the incident,” he said.

Over the weekend, the IDF said that 20,790 5.56 millimeter bullets, 690 FN MAG machine gun bullets, and 8,740 IWI Negev light machine gun bullets were stolen from Sde Teiman.

Illustrative photo of small-arms ammunition (photo credit:Pierre Terdjman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of small-arms ammunition (photo credit:Pierre Terdjman/Flash90)

The military police, Israel Police, and Shin Bet security service are investigating the theft. In addition, IDF Southern Commander Eliezer Toledano has appointed an officer to investigate.

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.

There are fears that stolen ammunition could be used in future terror attacks. In March, almost a thousand stolen IDF bullets were found on gunmen who killed two border police guards in a terror attack in the northern city of Hadera.

The Sde Teiman base has been the target of theft in the past. In 2017, 33 assault rifles were stolen from the base’s armory. In that case, a probe found that a subcontractor who had connections with crime families allowed the thieves into the base.

In response to last Wednesday’s theft, the IDF spokesperson said that the army was working to reduce thefts from bases by improving infrastructure and security.

“The plan was partially implemented at the Sde Teiman Base and some of the defense elements of the plan operate there,” he said and added that additional combat soldiers were sent to the base, and that defensive measures around the base and the armory would be improved.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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