Stolen weapons returned to the military.
Stolen weapons returned to IDF; military lost NIS 50 million worth of equipment in 2012. Photo by Nir Kafri
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The military lost equipment worth about NIS 50 million ($14 million) last year, with the figure for 2013 expected to be even higher, according to the army’s technology and logistics directorate. The losses are particularly bad because stolen equipment often winds up in the hands of criminals.

According to the IDF, Gil anti-tank missiles were stolen from a base in northern Israel this year, thousands of bullets were stolen from a bunker at Nebi Musa in the Judean Desert, and thieves attached a hose several dozen meters long to drain fuel from the Misgav base in the Negev.

The IDF says theft from bases has become increasingly bold. Thieves sneak onto bases through guarded gates and steal equipment, ammunition, iron, generators and even vehicles. According to a senior officer in the technology and logistics directorate, most thefts are carried out with cooperation from soldiers serving on the bases where the thefts occur; the idea is to sell the equipment.

Another officer, who served in the operations directorate, said the thefts were carried out by criminals who take advantage of the fact that ammunition and equipment bases are in remote locations. As a result, radar has been installed at some bases to monitor movement in bunkers and elsewhere.

The 2011 State Comptroller’s Report noted that reports by the technology and logistics directorate do not reflect all losses of equipment and weapons. According to technology and logistics, in 2007 the IDF lost equipment worth NIS 150 million, and 95 weapons.

But according to military-police figures Haaretz has obtained, 156 weapons were stolen that year. The gap between the figures stems from differences in counting methods. While technology and logistics counts the weapons whose whereabouts are unknown, the military police count the weapons stolen, even if they are found or returned to the army.

According to the latest IDF figures, 55 weapons and parts of weapons have been stolen so far this year – 17 from soldiers’ homes, 21 from various military units and eight from armories. The rest are parts of weapons stolen from a variety of other places.

The IDF takes pride in what it says is a 66 percent decline in equipment lost or stolen, based on a figure from 2007.

“After the Second Lebanon War [in 2006], people were in shock over what they saw in the emergency-store units,” said a senior officer in technology and logistics. But when reservists reported for the Gaza offensives in December 2008/January 2009 and November 2012, they saw that supplies were sufficient.

“And it was easier for them to part with what had gotten stuck to their hands,” the officer said, meaning that the soldiers didn’t feel the need to hold onto equipment for fear they would not have it when they needed it in the field.

There is now a greater awareness of theft at IDF units, the officer said, adding that “it’s a fact: The NIS 150 million has declined considerably.” Based on figures provided by the technology and logistics directorate, the value of lost equipment was about NIS 83 million in 2008 and NIS 45.5 million in 2009.

The technology and logistics directorate is planning a PR campaign in the coming year calling on civilians to return military equipment. The campaign is expected to cost NIS 1 million, so the IDF hopes that equipment worth a lot more than that will be brought back.

An IDF spokesman said “the technology and logistics directorate and the entire IDF continue to wage an all-out war against losses and theft.”