Egyptian soldiers lost control of Sinai
Egyptian soldiers lost control of SinaiReuters

The IDF has arrested 12 soldiers on suspicions that they have been smuggling drugs into Israel on behalf of Sinai Bedouin, and gave information on IDF troop movements and other restricted information to Sinai Bedouin. The soldiers were part of the IDF Trackers unit, which is largely staffed by Bedouin volunteers who live in the Negev.

Ten of the arrested soldiers were privates, but two of them were officers. IDF officials said that the two officers ran the operation, and were ringleaders in the drug trade with the Bedouin. The investigation into the operation went on for several months, and officials have video evidence of the drug sales.

Potentially more serious, however, was the discovery that members of this gang had also transferred sensitive information to Sinai Bedouin. The information included data on IDF troop movements and patrol schedules. Using the information, the Sinai Bedouin were able to more efficiently move their drugs into Israel through the open border between Sinai and Israel. IDF officials said that the gang got paid for each successful smuggling operation; when the information checked out and the gang was able to transfer the drugs without a problem, gang members got a bonus.

The IDF said that as the border fence between Sinai and Israel nears completion, smugglers have found themselves with fewer options. Thus, they have taken some unusual measures to try and remain in business, measures that in the past they were unlikely to attempt. The new measures are often much more dangerous, as smugglers desperately seek alternative routes and methods into Israel.

The suspects are members of units who are supposed to check out the territory along the southern border, searching for signs of infiltration and directing IDF soldiers in the appropriate direction. An attorney for several of the soldiers said that they had been ordered to arrange for drug sales by their commander, who was a higher-up in the criminal organization.