Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday encouraged all Israelis with a gun license to carry a weapon with them at all times in order to counter a recent wave of Palestinian attacks.
The mayor’s call to arms came after several weeks in which the capital was rocked by several stabbing incidents as well as rock and Molotov cocktail attacks. The focus of violence was in and around the Old City and its Temple Mount compound.
In an interview with Army Radio, Barkat responded to footage of himself walking around the city at night carrying what at first glance appeared to be a rifle, asserting that reports “simply got the facts wrong.”
The gun in question, he said, was a Glock 23 handgun, paired with a pistol-to-carbine conversion kit that “makes the gun more accurate and thus safer.”
“I have a licensed gun,” Barkat said. “Every time there is tension, I instruct people who are allowed to carry weapons and are experienced in using them to carry their guns with them. If you check, you’ll see that in many cases, those who neutralized terrorists were citizens who aren’t necessarily police officers, like former soldiers.”
Earlier, the Jerusalem Police said it would install metal detectors in the Old City’s gates. The move is part of efforts to secure the area and prevent people from entering the Old City with guns or knives. The detectors are similar to those deployed at the entrances to malls and central bus stations in Israel, and are meant to have a deterrent effect on potential assailants.
The Jerusalem Police also intends to establish an “Arabic Section” in its cyber department and charge it with scanning social media and warning when posts indicate their writers are planning intending to carry out a terror attack, the Army Radio report said.
In two recent cases, terrorists wrote posts on Facebook indicating their intentions before carrying out attacks. On Wednesday, a Palestinian woman stabbed an Israeli man in the Old City after declaring on Facebook that she was going to “become a martyr.” The stab victim shot her with his handgun and wounded her critically.
On Saturday, a Palestinian man stabbed Aharon Banita and Nehemia Lavi to death in the Old City after posting on Facebook about an impending “third intifada.” He was shot and killed by police.
Amid rising security concerns in the capital, hundreds of high schools in the capital were closed Thursday as parents called a strike over a dearth of funding for school guards.
Some 400 Jerusalem schools are defined by police as in need of permanent security, but shrinking budgets in recent years have cut short the number of hours that guards are present at the schools.
Barkat said that on the issue of school security guards, “I speak for the residents and I will not give up.” Every day that passes without security throughout the entire school day “is quite simply forsaking the children.”
“To my chagrin, for many months we’ve been running back and forth between the Public Security Ministry, the Finance Ministry, to some degree the Education Ministry, and back to the Prime Minister’s Office,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, by now I expect the prime minister to solve the problem, since this issue has been kicked from one ministry to the next and so far we have yet to receive an adequate solution.”