Israel ramps up weaponizing civilians amid mounting fears of growing settlers' terrorism

Yasmine Osama Farag , Wednesday 15 Nov 2023

An average of 1,700 weapons licences are issued to Israelis on a daily basis, said Israel's National Security Ministry. The figure marks a sharp increase on the average of licences issued before the onset of the current war on Gaza on 7 October. Fears are mounting that settlers' armed assaults on Palestinians, especially in the occupied West Bank, will increase as a result.

File Photo- Israel s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir. AP


About 236,000 applications for weapons licenses have been submitted to the ministry since 7 October it said, adding that this number is equal to the previous 20 years, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

18,000 Israeli civilians have completed the full process and purchased a gun since the outbreak of war.

Israeli far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called on Israelis who are in the midst of applying to complete the process and on anyone who has not yet started "to do so today."

In the early days of the war, Ben Gvir, who led the extremist Jewish Power Party, directed the Firearm Licensing Department to launch an emergency operation to enable as many civilians as possible to arm themselves.

He said that his ministry is purchasing 10,000 rifles to arm volunteer civilian security teams in border towns, mixed Jewish-Arab cities, and West Bank settlements.

Furthermore, the Israeli government has said that around 700 such teams, which operate under the command of Israeli police, have been established since 7 October.

Ben Gvir, who has previously been convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting anti-Arab racism, loomed on the edges of the Israeli far-right before his party and other extremist figures shored up Netanyahu’s ruling coalition – the most right-wing in Israel’s history.

His party draws its core support from Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Last week, he called for the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip and the building of settlements in the besieged territory. Heritage Minister Amichay Eliyahu, who is in Ben Gvir’s party, suggested that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza could be “one way” for Israel to deal with Hamas. 

Critics see these initiatives of arming civilians as part of a far-right vision to inflame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli settler violence has increased significantly since 7 October, from an already high average of three incidents per day in 2023 to seven a day now, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA).

OCHA recorded 171 settler attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 26 different casualty incidents, damage to 115 Palestinian properties, and some 30 reported incidents of both property damage and casualties.

The office also noted the use of firearms to intimidate Palestinians, with more than one in every three settler-related incidents since 7 October involving settlers using firearms to threaten Palestinians, including by opening fire.

More than 190 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or Jewish settlers since 7 October, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight Palestinians were killed by settlers directly, as of the end of October, according to the UN.

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