Fearing Bedouin thieves, IDF de-equips tanks in storage facilities

In case of sudden war, there will be a “significant delay” in getting them ready to fight, an army source charged.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The IDF is storing tanks without necessary combat equipment for fear of it being stolen by Bedouin thieves, Channel 20 reported Sunday.

Based on a tip from the Doctrine of Combat Association, a religious nonprofit that aims to block trends it sees as weakening the IDF, the news station talked to a soldier from the Emergency Warehouse Unit (EMW) of reservist Division 252 in the Tze’elim base, who confirmed the story.

“Tanks in the EMW are ready with all the equipment, all the ammunition, completely outfitted…and all that is left to do in an emergency is to take off their covers, load the machine guns, turn on the motor and drive to the front,” the soldier said in a disguised voice.

“Over the last weeks they started bringing in more advanced tanks and the decision was simply made that each new tank would come in without practically any equipment. In practice, they’ll contain only regular shells and mortar shells, because the Bedouin simply don’t steal them,” the soldier continued. “This means that if the battalion gets an emergency call-up, instead of being immediately battle-ready, there will be a very significant delay.”

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Army sources told Channel 20 that it could take between two and four hours to load the tanks with all the standard gear, which includes thousands of rounds of ammunition, tools, kitbags and other military paraphernalia.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office denied that the new policy would harm the army’s ability to gear up for war.

“The directive in question is to collect the ammunition for storage in secure ammunition depots in each unit. The ammunition depots are located near the armored combat vehicles, so there is no impairment of emergency preparation and operation times,” the statement said.

Theft from army bases, mostly attributed to Bedouin gangs, has been a years-long problem for the IDF, but there has been a recent upsurge in the number of break-ins and the quantities being stolen. In one of the most serious incidents, 90,000 bullets were spirited away from Tze’elim in January. In February, there were several break-ins, including one in which the thieves used drones to both gather intelligence about the Natan base in Be’er Sheva and damage its power grid before making off with military equipment.

A committee from the General Staff recommended in February that the Military Police take charge of base security and train special units to prevent theft. Fifty of the most threatened bases were to receive advanced means of protection, including Tze’elim.