IDF drugs
The IDF officer suspected of drug trafficking appearing at a military court hearing. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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A 31-year-old major in the Israel Defense Forces was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking, it emerged on Sunday after a gag order on the affair was lifted.

The major was arrested three weeks ago along with nine others allegedly involved in a drug-trafficking ring, including two Military Police officers under his command. The major's arrest took place in the synagogue at his base during services.

The drug ring was uncovered in late August after police stopped a car for a routine check and found that the driver did not have a license, which lead to the car being towed away. The tow-truck driver soon realized he was being followed by a suspicious vehicle, and decided to call the police. The police stopped the vehicle - and also found 15 kilograms of hashish in the towed car.

That car, along with the drugs, were traced to a man who is apparently part of a group that had been smuggling drugs into Israel from Egypt, and is possibly linked to the major. The latter initially admitted to the allegations against him, but then retracted some of his testimony.

The whole complex undercover case made its way to the Tel Aviv central police unit, which was able to tie members of the drug ring to the major, an infantryman serving in the Gaza division of the Southern Command. The major's responsibilities include oversight of drugs confiscated on the border. According to police sources, the traffickers had some 200 kilograms of hashish and 25 kilograms of heroin, worth a total of NIS 2.5 million.

IDF top brass were stunned to find out that the officer was allegedly involved in the drug ring, and are currently looking into revising policies in light of the case. Israel police were surprised to find out the ease with which contraband could be moved across the border.

Previous cases of drug trafficking in the army have involved soldiers of relatively junior rank, or Bedouin trackers who had social or family connections with drug smugglers. In the current case, the major does not appear to have been the target of an extortion plot and is thought to have engaged in the alleged activity for the profit.

"He was an outstanding officer with a lot of responsibility," said one of the division's officers. "It is hard for all of us to believe the news."