A young child proudly shows his mother a drawing he has just completed. The white page is completely blank. “What did you draw?” asks the surprised mother. “A cow eating grass in a field.” answers the child. “Where is the grass?” asks the mother. “The cow ate it.” answers the child very seriously. “And where is the cow?” asks the mother again. “It went off to graze in another field.” answers the child.
The picture on the right is of 3,000 IDF tank shells in an ammunition storage base somewhere in the Negev. Before you ask – the shells went off to graze in another field. Let’s just hope that they went to the pragmatic metal thieves’ field, not to the terror fields of the Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
3,000 tank shells weigh around 60 tonnes. If they were stolen all at once it would take several heavy lorries to transport them away from the base. The shells were in all likelihood stolen using the boiling frog method – along time and in small quantities at a time. The cost of the shells is estimated at 15 million Shekels – pocket money to the defence establishment. According to a source at the IDF’s Southern Command, it is possible that the continuing investigation will reveal that the quantities stolen were even larger.
From the information published, it was not the IDF itself that discovered the theft – Israel’s police passed to it intelligence it had obtained. The technology which enables the monitoring of fences for touch and break-in has been in existence for years. From the information released it appears that it was not installed around this base. Adding together the direct cost of this theft and the indirect cost of potential acts of terror using these shells, the cost of installing these systems becomes negligible. Add to this the possibility that the same thieves that removed the shells from the base could have left behind, for an appropriate payment from a Gaza based terror organisation, remotely operated explosive charges and the question of the cost of an electronic fence monitoring system becomes academic.
The theft of weapons from IDF bases has a long history, although usually it involves small quantities of guns, ammunition, hand grenades, explosives and sometimes, for desert, one or two LAW missiles. In many cases the theft is carried out or assisted by soldiers who have direct access to these weapons. In other cases, bases and weapon storage facilities are broken into from the outside. From the information coming out regarding the shell theft incident, there is a possibility that IDF soldiers were involved in some way or another in the theft. In my book, a vile deed of this kind comes under the heading of treason during war. I will leave it to you to check on Google what the Israeli law has to say about this.