When IDF officials launched their latest campaign urging Israelis to return equipment belonging to the army, they expected to receive items like uniforms, ammunition belts, and other “peripheral” items that soldiers may have left at home on occasion and neglected to return after their demobilization. However they did not expect to receive a gun left over from the First World War – a “St. Etienne” rifle that was apparently used in the War of Independence in 1948.
The 8mm-caliber rifle in question was manufactured in 1907 in France, and was apparently part of a shipment that may have arrived in Israel via Turkey after World War II, when some of the weapons were smuggled into Israel, or it may have been brought in by an individual who came to the country during the 1930s. In any event, the gun is extremely rare, and the army is considering putting it on display in the Hagana Museum in Tel Aviv.
The individual who brought the weapon in said he had no idea how it got into his possession, and that it was only recently found in his house – and under the rules of the “Bring the Army’s Weapons Back Home” campaign, no questions or investigations are supposed to be asked. Officials said that they were happy that the gun was now in the hands of the army, and urged others to emulate the example.
So far this year, the army has received about 100 weapons (mostly Kalachnikovs and M-16s), 230 hand grenades, ten mortar shells and over 300,000 bullets since the campaign began about a month ago. Other recovered items include night vision goggles, rocket launchers, a Lau missile, and even a truck tire, officials said.