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Northern Command chief: Slew of security flaws led to mass theft of ammunition

Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin investigates burglary of 73,000 bullets, 72 grenades from Tznobar Base in Golan Heights; says he found problems with security infrastructure, other issues

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

Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, the incoming head of the Northern Command, during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Home Front Command base near the city of Ramla, on August 29, 2022. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)
Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, the incoming head of the Northern Command, during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Home Front Command base near the city of Ramla, on August 29, 2022. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)

The head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Northern Command said Sunday that a myriad of security failings led to the theft of over 70,000 rounds of ammunition from an army base in the Golan Heights a day earlier.

Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin conducted an investigation with officials at Tznobar Base near the town of Katzrin following Saturday’s burglary, which saw the theft of 73,000 5.56-millimeter bullets — used by the IDF’s most commonly deployed assault rifles — along with 72 grenades designed to be launched from an M-203 grenade launcher.

In a statement published by the IDF, Gordin noted that there were several problems with the base’s security infrastructure and that munitions were not being stored “adequately.”

The IDF said a plan to address issues with base security was set to be implemented only in the coming year.

But Gordin still praised cooperation between the IDF and other security forces following the burglary.

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

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

According to IDF’s initial probe, police notified the military of a gang of thieves from Tuba-Zangariyye operating in the area on Friday night. It was not clear whether the burglary had already occurred by the time the base was made aware of the thieves in the area.

The IDF was also probing whether any soldiers from the base assisted in the burglary.

Gordin appointed a colonel 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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