Leader of Gang Responsible for Base Weapons Theft Arrested

Stolen weapons. (IDF Spokesman, File)

The head of the gang responsible for the theft of weapons at a storage facility at the Sde Teiman IDF base in southern Israel was arrested in the early morning hours Thursday, security officials announced later in the day. The gang leader is a resident of Kafr Kara, an Arab village in the lower Galilee. He was found hiding out in an apartment in northern Israel, as he sought to avoid arrest.

Police were able to find him due to confessions by other members of the gang. Six people were arrested last month in connection with the case. According to officials, the suspects were outside civilian workers employed at the base, undertaking a painting and repair project.

After several days on the job, when their presence was no longer seen by soldiers as out of the ordinary, the suspected workers began veering off their regular schedules and entering areas of the base where they were not authorized to go. When they realized no one was watching them, they began stealing the weapons.Officials said the group broke into the weapons warehouse and loaded dozens of weapons onto their truck, which was parked near the warehouse.

The gang sold the weapons to criminal groups, security officials said. Police found some of the weapons in the possession of criminals and traced them back to the base. The gang earned hundreds of thousands of shekels from their theft, police said.

The theft, which occurred at the end of May, triggered a new project to beef up security at all IDF weapons storehouses around the country. For the first time, a comprehensive map of all weapons warehouses is being drawn up. Once they are mapped, the IDF will begin beefing up security around the facilities, using video, sensors and alarms to ensure safety. Access to the warehouses will be granted only to authorized personnel, with biometrics likely to be used to identify and authenticate individuals allowed access to the facilities. Other advanced technologies, including big data and computer analysis, will be used to discover weak points where thefts are more likely to occur, Channel Two reported.

According to Channel Two, the thieves walked away with 33 automatic weapons, 13 Lau rockets, 77 smoke grenades, and a Matador portable, disposable anti-armor weapon system.

Police, who are not responsible for security at army bases, slammed the IDF, saying that in the best-case scenario, the weapons would be used by organized crime gangs to fight against each other, but that some of the weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists.