Military Police launched an investigation into the theft of a heavy machine gun from troops during an exercise in southern Israel last week, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.
The IDF did not elaborate further on the circumstances of the theft, although many details were published by Hebrew-language media outlets, whose military correspondents are regularly briefed off the record by IDF officials.
According to the reports, an all-terrain vehicle drove into a training ground used by troops of the IDF’s Givati infantry brigade, and a suspect on it snatched the FN MAG machine gun that was placed next to an armored personnel carrier. The reports said the suspect or suspects waited a while and carried out the theft while the soldiers weren’t paying attention.
Military sources were cited by the Walla news site as saying the incident was an escalation of the frequent thefts from army bases. “Stealing ammunition and collecting bullets from training grounds is commonplace. Stealing weapons? It has become a dangerous phenomenon,” the unnamed sources 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.
In response to a query by The Times of Israel on the reports, the IDF responded with a boilerplate: “A Military Police investigation was opened over the incident, and upon completion, its findings will be forwarded to the Military Prosecutor’s Office for examination.”
Earlier this month, two Israeli suspects were detained for the theft of 26,000 bullets from an army base in southern Israel, and in December, eight Bedouin suspects were arrested over a similar theft of 30,000 bullets from another army base in the south.
Security officials fear that stolen ammunition and weapons could be used in terror attacks. Last year, 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.