Watch: Bedouin drug industry flourishes under IDF's nose

Regavim organization reveals: Bedouin criminals set up greenhouses yielding millions in drug money per year in military training zones.

Reut Hadar ,

One of the greenhouses photographed on land of the Tzeelim army base
One of the greenhouses photographed on land of the Tzeelim army base
Courtesy of Regavim

IDF training zones in southern Israel have become a safe haven for Bedouin drug cultivation.

Surprising pictures published this evening, Wednesday, document the method of growing thousands of marijuana plants in the middle of military training zones, and the way the plants are smuggled out to be sold.

A training camp in southern Israel has been plagued in recent years from headlines mostly involving thefts from soldiers training at the base perpetrated by Bedouin criminals with ATVs who enter the premises unhindered during shooting exercises and steal ammunition and military equipment.

Now, it seems that, amidst the tank fire, the shooting ranges, and navigation areas, thousands of marijuana plants are being hidden, where they were planted by Bedouin criminals in a large number of greenhouses.

The criminals take advantage of the fact that the area is closed off to civilians, and establish temporary greenhouses in hidden corners of training areas. Every greenhouse contains hundreds of marijuana plants, covered with cloth canopies in desert colors to make them hard to identify, and the sites include water canisters and fertilizer.

According to assessments, the value of marijuana included in each greenhouse is more than a million shekels, and the net profit from a yearly cycle of all the greenhouses in the area amounts to tens of millions of shekels.

A hidden security camera that was installed near one of the greenhouses shows the criminals arriving in ATVs and Jeeps to the area and packing drugs onto the vehicles for hours on end.

The video was already filmed last summer but was released now as part of a new campaign by the Regavim organization which calls to “return the state to the Negev.”

In an additional video filmed in recent days, Regavim representatives arrived at some of the greenhouses and documented what is happening there; they intend to pass the footage to police.

“For years, we documented and warned of Bedouin criminals stealing ammunition and military equipment unhindered, but now it appears that that is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Amichai Yogev, head of Regavim’s southern division, which has been working for years against illegal building in the Bedouin sprawl and to gain control over state land.

“The IDF and enforcement authorities have preferred, to a significant degree, not to deal with the infringement on training zones, and concertedly did not take action against criminals who act here as if it's their own property,” he added. “This behavior has led to a loss of sovereignty in the region, and to a reality of a state within a state, otherwise it’s impossible to explain how such a giant drug industry is flourishing unhindered under the nose of the IDF and police.”

“If we don’t want to lose the Negev, the state of Israel has got to return here with full force.”