A commando soldier was lightly injured when he was attacked by a number of suspects who stole his weapon during an overnight navigation exercise in northern Israel, the army said Thursday, in an incident the IDF chief of staff condemned as “crossing a red line.”
The Kan public broadcaster reported that the incident took place close to the town of Shfaram, and the attackers were thought to be Arab Israelis.
The outlet said the soldier was walking alone down a dirt road at around 3 a.m. when a vehicle containing two people pulled up behind him.
The vehicle stopped and one of the men asked the soldier if he needed a ride. When the soldier kept on walking, the vehicle overtook him and blocked the road, at which point the two men got out and attacked him in a struggle that went on for approximately five minutes.
The report said the soldier managed to throw the gun magazine into nearby bushes, but the assailants escaped with his weapon.
The army said in a statement that Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi viewed the incident very seriously, saying “a red line has been crossed.”
The IDF was conducting an investigation into the incident alongside the Israel Police.
The theft of guns has long been an issue for the military. As a result, in recent years the IDF has invested millions of shekels in advanced security systems for armories.
According to data released by the Knesset in 2020, there are some 400,000 illegal weapons in Israel. Former public security minister Gilad Erdan estimated that 70 percent of the illegal weapons were stolen from the army and police force.
Arab Israeli policymakers often criticize the police for not doing enough to crack down on illegal weapons, saying that they know where the weapons are and choose to do nothing, but police officials say the matter isn’t so simple.
On Monday, the government approved a NIS 150 million ($45 million) plan to combat the spread of violence and organized crime in Arab cities and towns, including two arms-gathering operations.