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Palestinians Take Weapon from IDF Soldier in Guard

Something is rotten in the state of Israel



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On December 21, 2012, an unusual incident took place at the gate of the IDF Ramah Base, near the Palestinian town of a-Ram*, northwest of Jerusalem. Two Palestinians approached the gate and took the weapon of the soldier guarding it. This happened just days after two separate incidents when IDF soldiers ran away from Palestinians throwing stones at them, despite their being armed (see IDF Open-Fire Regulations Backfire). "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," Shakespeare wrote a long time ago; nowadays he probably would have rephrased it "Something is rotten in the state of Israel." This is true to such an extent that its soldiers prefer to run away from its horrors.


a-Ram surrounded by the Segregation Wall
Notes from Ramallah, 1939

Before describing the peculiarity of this event, I must be fair. This is far from being the first time that Palestinians took weapons from IDF soldiers. On average between 100 and 150 weapons are stolen every year, mostly from soldiers traveling to their homes for the weekend. For this reason, last year, the IDF substantially lowered the number of soldiers that went home with weapons. Still, 80 weapons were stolen in 2011. The current event has been defined by IDF commanders as "serious," and as a "terrorist act." These definitions carry operational consequences.

Jerusalem Map

a-Ram is next to the point marked "Atarot"

Sleeping Soldier?

An artillery corps soldier from the "Reshef" Battalion 402, entered a cosy booth that isolated him from the cold Jerusalemite night. Inside, he made himself comfortable. As usual in winter, it was a rainy night. His force was there providing peripheral security to a secondary base; nothing was expected to happen. Apparently, he fell asleep. For sure, he wasn't looking around. Not far from there, two still unidentified Palestinians cut the fence of the base, entered it, and without hesitation approached the booth. They were carrying a mock rifle. When they tried to open the booth's door, the soldier realized he had guests. Non-chalantly, he opened the door and the Palestinians confronted him, threatening him with a wooden weapon. Against all orders and common sense, the soldier handed his weapon to the attackers. At this moment, he was sprayed with pepper and the attackers left the site. Minutes later the soldier contacted headquarters and mayhem began. It was too late, the gun was gone.

A-Ram Area

A-Ram Area | Atarot International Airport is not active


A brigadier general is brought to the scene of the crime

It is one thing to rob a weapon from a lonely soldier walking alone through a deserted alley on his way home; a very different thing is stealing a weapon from a soldier on duty. One doesn't need to be a general in order to understand that the latter is a grave event, and I refer to both meanings of the word. Once the peripheral security of a military base is broken, disasters may easily develop. After entering, the intruders could have had access to weapon depots, activated military equipment, kidnapped and killed soldiers. This is just the shortlist. After the soldier reported the incident, Brigadier General Hagai Mordechai, commander of the West Bank Division (Ugdat Ezor Yehuda VeShomron, the same commander featured in IDF Open-Fire Regulations Backfire), was hurried to the base and an investigation began. One of its main goals is to establish whether the soldier had been properly instructed before his shift. This will determine if the soldier alone is to be punished, or if his officers will also be jailed. Meanwhile, the soldier has been detained on the base.

The other issue being investigated is why the soldier didn't use his weapon. Open-Fire regulations are a bit sketchy in the IDF, but there is no doubt than when an armed soldier is in danger of being killed, he has the right to defend himself using his weapon. He would have been acquitted by any martial court. Moreover, he could have reacted more humanely, by shooting the arms or legs of the attackers instead of killing them. No military regulations allow handing weapons to attackers.

In a sad attempt to control the damage, the military commanders told the Hebrew media that the incident was not of a military nature, but a regular criminal robbery. They explained that by citing the fact that the life of the soldier was spared. Other explanations were not even considered since even this soft and questionable argument is "harming deterrence," as Israelis like to say. The Palestinians were professionals, shooting the soldier would have brought unwanted attention to their escape. Yet, Israeli newspapers managed to find soldiers sharply describing the incident. "Maybe women from the Border Guard should be brought in to guard the soldiers," one of them said. Something is rotten in the State of Israel.

IDF Future

IDF's Future


* "al" is the Arabic article; it is transliterated in a variety of ways depending on various factors, sometimes as "el." a-Ram is also spelled out in Latin letters as al-Ram, and even ar-Ram. The actual sound is closer to what English speakers will hear like ah-ram.

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