Border Police Who Handled Riots in Mixed Cities Faced Shortages of Guns, Gear in Last Month's Unrest

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Border Police officers in Lod during the escalations in Gaza, in May.
Border Police officers in Lod during the escalations in Gaza, in May.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Israel’s police had to delay deploying forces to quell the rioting in mixed cities that erupted during last month’s escalation with Hamas for several days because they lacked sufficient equipment, weapons and vehicles, Haaretz has learned.

Border Police forces, who had been mobilized to help contain the violence, arrived at warehouses where emergency stocks are held only to find that they were short of hundreds of weapons and considerable equipment. As a result, they were forced to ask the Israel Defense Forces, then in the midst of Operation Guardians of the Walls, to make up for the lack of supplies.

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In May, as riots broke out in mixed Arab-Jewish cities throughout Israel, Israel's political leadership decided to mobilize 20 Border Police reserve companies, along with transferring troops from the unit, to be stationed all over the country. They were mainly to be sent to Lod, in which a state of emergency had been declared.

But after the first eight companies were called up, it became apparent that the equipment that was stored for emergency use by reserve forces had been depleted by years of day-to-day usage. In addition, the storerooms contained full-length M-16 rifles, which significantly hampered operations on the ground, where shorter-barrel weapons are more appropriate.

In response to appeals for help from the Border Police, the IDF provided 500 short-barrel guns as well as military vehicles.

“Every hour was critical,” said one senior police official. “Over the years, they had been using weapons that were designated for the reserves, and when the time came that they were needed, there was no equipment.”

Another source attributed the problem to “Border Police negligence.” He added, “If there had been disturbances in multiple places simultaneously that had required calling up army reservists, we would have had a real problem on our hands.”

A police official said that it was the Border Police’s responsibility to be prepared for such situations. Another senior official said the warehouses had been poorly maintained over the past few years. “The emergency systems were unsupervised – it was complete chaos,” he added.

In response to the problem, the police are looking into transferring responsibility for the warehouses to a private company, which would be supervised by the police operations division, in order to ensure that emergency equipment isn’t used for day-to-day operations. In addition, the police are naming a team to investigate the reasons for the equipment shortage.

“If the last operations taught the police anything, it’s the need for Border Police reserve forces that can be mobilized quickly. If the equipment isn’t there, or it is second-rate, then they can’t fulfill their duties as needed,” said a police source.

In response, the Israel Police said in a statement: “Within 48 hours from the time [the Border Police] were called up, they were operating in different sectors. The Border Police commander has ordered a team to investigate and draw conclusions regarding a number of aspects of the operation, including enhancing reserve forces.”

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