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Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops operating in the West Bank have uncovered a new security threat in the form of 3D-printed firearms, the IDF announced in a 17 August 2023 report on its website.

IDF Combat Engineering troops patrolling in Judea and Samaria in July 2023 were directed by intelligence to a location where weapons had been stored and confiscated three pistols, an assault rifle and various other weapon parts. The troops then realised that the weapons had been 3D-printed when they found eight 3D printers, 65 printing filament spools and printing plans.

The commanding officer of the IDF’s 601st Combat Engineering Battalion, whose name was withheld in the IDF report, was quoted as saying, “These are entirely functional weapons. After closer examination, we saw they contained components that enabled them to cause harm. It was truly a digital lathe.”

An IDF patrol in the West Bank in July 2023 discovered three pistols, an assault rifle and various other weapon parts that had been produced using eight 3D printers. (Photo: IDF)

The IDF report stated that the situation in Judea and Samaria has been particularly tense recently, in particular since Palestinians finishing their secondary educations examinations have a tradition of celebrating by shooting weapons into the air. IDF troops had consequently stepped up their patrolling and, according to the IDF report, conducted 42 weapon searches and 36 arrests over the course of the past five months.

The IDF combat engineering commander was additionally quoted in the report as saying, “This is a phenomenon that we [had] yet to encounter. We will increase the intelligence effort regarding this issue and continue to conduct extensive counter-terrorism activities in the region.”

The discovery of 3D-printed weapons in the West Bank must be a concern to the IDF because it means that even successfully countering arms smuggling into the Occupied Territories will not necessarily stop the proliferation of arms there.

That said, ammunition cannot be entirely 3D-printed, while 3D-printed weapons are generally not reliable for firing more than a few rounds.

Peter Felstead