Officer dismissed, others censured over weapons theft on IDF base

Officer dismissed, others censured over weapons theft on IDF base

In October, anti-tank mines, grenades, bullets and explosives were stolen from an armory in the Golan Heights

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)

Four IDF officers were formally censured and a fifth was dismissed from his position this week for failing to prevent the theft of anti-tank mines and other weaponry from a military base in the Golan Heights earlier this year, the army said Tuesday.

On October 2, the military found that a large amount of weapons, including thousands of bullets, explosive charges, detonators, fragmentation grenades and mines had been stolen from an emergency cache of weapons on the Homa base in the Golan Heights.

The army launched two separate investigations into the robbery, one by Military Police and the other for education and disciplinary purposes.

The police investigation is ongoing as of Tuesday, meaning criminal action could also still be taken against the officers. Once that probe comes to a close, the results will be passed along to the Military Advocate General to consider prosecution, the army said.

In the interim, the results of the latter investigation were presented to the head of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, who approved a number of disciplinary measures for the officers involved in the incident.

Though the base is located in northern Israel, the unit that was responsible for the armory at the time of the incident — the 401st Armored Brigade’s engineering battalion — is part of the Southern Command’s 162nd Division, which is why Zamir handed down the punishments.

After reviewing the report, the Southern Command chief decided to formally chastise the battalion’s commander for “not upholding the responsibility to protect the battalion and not adhering to defense procedures,” the army said in a statement.

In addition, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot accepted Zamir’s proposal that the lieutenant colonel be made ineligible for promotion in the next two years.

Brig. Gen. Oded Basiuk, head of the 162nd Division, both censured and dismissed from his position the battalion’s technology and maintenance officer after a court martial in which he was found guilty of negligence.

Basiuk also formally reprimanded the deputy head of the engineering battalion, as the protection of the armory was directly his responsibility.

The commander of the battalion’s administrative company was also cited for failing to properly “transport, store and protect the ammunition,” the army said.

The battalion’s operations officer was also “severely censured” by the head of the 401st Armored Brigade after he was found guilty of negligence in a court martial, the IDF said.

“The operational lessons that were learned from this incident regarding the transport, storage and protection of ammunition have been clarified to the entire military,” the army said in a statement.

In June, Eisenkot ordered the military to invest NIS 15 million ($4.2 million) into additional security measures for on-base armories, after dozens of assault rifles were stolen from a military base a few weeks earlier.

The theft of military equipment is not uncommon in the IDF, occurring on the level of individual soldiers “accidentally” walking off with everything from bullets to jeeps, as well as criminal organizations actively breaking onto bases and training facilities in order to steal guns, grenades and missiles.

To combat this issue, the army announced it would be installing a number of new security measures in military armories, including biometric scanners, additional cameras and improved locks.

Earlier this year, the army also issued new orders to reduce thefts, allowing soldiers to shoot at intruding thieves. In the past, troops could only give chase, but not open fire — a fact well known to the thieves.

It is unclear if the new tools will be effective at cracking down on thefts, as many of the cases of stolen military equipment were either carried out by soldiers serving on the bases in question or with their assistance.

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