A suspected car thief infiltrated the Nevatim Air Force base on Monday, causing security to embark on a seven-hour search that ended only after it was confirmed that he was no longer on the premises.
The thief arrived at the entrance to the base in a car he stole in the nearby city of Dimona, leading to him being chased by police.
When the car's tires were pierced by spikes close to the entrance to the base that houses the advanced F-35 stealth bombers, he abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot into the grounds of the compound, triggering a massive manhunt.
IDF troops supported by helicopters and drones searched through the night covering the entire area of the base, which is as large as Tel Aviv, until they found the spot where the thief had managed to scale the five-meter high fence and escape.
The incident was the latest in a string of security breaches at IDF facilities carried out by criminals, often intending to steal weapons.
Just hours before the incident at Nevatim, some 20,000 bullets were stolen from an Israeli Air Force training camp near Be'er Sheva.
Last December, weapons were stolen from infantry troops on a training mission in the Jordan Valley while the two soldiers tasked with guarding them were asleep at their post.
In another incident that took place at around the same time, at least 93,000 bullets were stolen from weapons storage at the large Tze'elim military training facility in the south. The ammunition was taken away in vehicles that were able to enter and depart the facility unhindered.
The same training camp was breached again in recent weeks, although this time the thieves stole entire containers of military equipment.
The IDF believes much of the criminal activity can be traced to members of the Bedouin community residing in the Negev Desert.
The government has come under fire for its inability to contain Bedouin criminal gangs who have grown more brazen over the years.
The fact that the car thief who was fleeing police preferred to take his chances with the Nevatim security detail in his efforts to avoid arrest illustrates how vulnerable the military installations can be.
"We are forbidden to shoot at criminals entering our bases," a former IDF officer who served at the southern training facility told Ynet.
As long as thieves enter military zones unarmed and are not attempting to cause physical harm to troops, they are immune from lethal force used against them. This is why we've seen such robberies occur over and over again," he said.
The military is bound by the law of the land and is unable to use lethal force even if thieves attempt to get away with highly sensitive equipment.
The IDF said it has increased security measures and invested in new fencing and other surveillance technology, and some successful interceptions of robberies have occurred.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi has begun to have surprise security drills at some bases and instituted changes to security protocols.
A military official said the IDF has also increased its cooperation with police to combat crimes carried out in army bases in the south.
"We are learning from past experiences and training personnel in charge of security," he said.