Manhunt on for Bedouin who escaped air force base

Security failures regarding Bedouin break-ins at IDF bases has been a problem for years.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A manhunt is continuing Tuesday for a Bedouin car thief who managed to evade police and army search parties and escape from an IDF base he had driven into when fleeing from the authorities on Monday night.

The thief managed to enter while the Nevatim air force base gate was temporarily open. When the spikes on the road tore out his tires, he then fled the stolen vehicle on foot. IDF ground units, air force contractors, army scouts and police air units combed the huge base for hours to find the suspect. Finally, at around 3 a.m., they found his escape point. The man had climbed three fences, two of barbed wire and another some 15 feet high, and got away.

The IDF pointed out, in reaction to the escape, that base personnel immediately blocked off the regular exit points. “At no time during the incident was there a threat to the soldiers serving at the base or to its security facilities,” they emphasized.

The security failure will also be addressed, said the IDF spokesman, who stated, “The incident will be investigated and the necessary lessons will be learned from it.”

Break-ins to southern army bases attributed to Negev Bedouin are an old story. Three were arrested Sunday after being caught pilfering equipment from another air force base at Sde Teiman. Soldiers have been complaining for years about hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of military and personal items being stolen from training areas, especially from the main Tze’elim army base.

“This is the reality in the Negev,” one reservist said after an incident last June in which Bedouin rioters surrounded and threatened soldiers who had chased thieves out of the base to the entrance of a nearby settlement. “When you come to do reserve duty in the south, you have to be prepared for someone to break into your car, steal equipment from you, infiltrate the base – and no one will do anything. It shames the military. I do not understand why they don’t do anything. No army in the world would allow such things to happen.”

According to an internal IDF memo exposed on social media at the time, the commander of the army’s tactical training center had instructed soldiers that “the army’s job is to prevent theft” but not chase Bedouin thieves, as “pursuit is life-threatening.”

Last month, in a particularly serious incident, 90,000 bullets were stolen from Tze’elim.

The Regavim Movement, which pursues legal action against illegal Arab construction by both Bedouin in the Negev and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, warned that the situation would only get worse if not dealt with by the authorities.

“If you ignore a problem when it’s small, you’ll have to deal with it eventually – and by then it may have grown beyond control,” the NGO said in a statement. “In the last two weeks alone, the Negev has seen horrific and varied forms of criminal behavior: The shocking sexual assault of a little girl in her home, the break-in at the Israel Air Force base at Sde Teiman that included a stun grenade attack on our soldiers…a massive ammunition heist, and now, a break-in at the Nevatim base, where Israel’s top-secret aeronautical technology is housed.

“The State of Israel must draw the line, and formulate a comprehensive, all-encompassing and non-negotiable solution to the problem of Bedouin crime in the Negev.”

Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Liberman also harshly criticized the government for its inaction regarding Bedouin crime.

“An end must be put to the terrorism, fear, and a state within a state run by the Bedouin in the Negev,” he said. “The residents of the south deserve a quiet life without fear of crime, drugs, protection and wild driving on the roads. The latest incidents we have seen of the theft of weapons in Tze’elim and the entry with a stolen vehicle to the Nevatim base are terrorist incidents for all intents and purposes, and the handling [of it] must be in accordance.”