After Beersheba attack, police to ease gun policy for passersby who shoot attackers

Pending legal approval, armed civilians involved in neutralizing terrorists will be issued a temporary replacement handgun in an expedited procedure

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

A suspected assailant being shot in Beersheba on March 22, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
A suspected assailant being shot in Beersheba on March 22, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Police have said they will implement a new gun policy for civilians involved in neutralizing terrorists, following an attack in the southern city of Beersheba that killed four Israelis on Tuesday.

Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an, 34, killed two women and two men in the attack in the southern city before he was shot dead by armed civilians. A former schoolteacher from the Bedouin town of Hura, he had served time in prison for plotting to join the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria.

Police were criticized for confiscating the handguns of the civilians who neutralized the terrorist, one of whom, a resident of the West Bank, said he feared to go home unarmed.

Under the new procedure, introduced Wednesday, police said a civilian whose gun was taken to be forensically examined after they were involved in neutralizing a terrorist would be accompanied home by police officers, and a new handgun would be issued for them in an expedited procedure.

The legal aspects of the procedure still need to be approved before they can be implemented, Channel 12 reported.

Police also said they have established a special task force to examine police conduct during and after an attack.

Policemen work at the scene of an attack in Beersheba, southern Israel, March 22, 2022. (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

One of the questions raised in the wake of the attack was why emergency services took so long to reach the scene. Initial reports received by local police were of a ramming attack or a violent brawl. The report of an ongoing terror attack was only received four minutes after it started.

Rejecting the criticism on Wednesday, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said, “Four minutes from the moment the report is received at the police station to the moment of arrival is a quick response time. These are four minutes of fast driving on busy roads, but these are also four minutes in a terrorist incident where every second is critical and important.”

The task force is expected to present its findings to commander of the southern district of the Israel Police in the next few days.

Moreover, police have decided to deploy additional forces in Beersheba in order to provide locals with a sense of security. The additional troops will be deployed in the city throughout the weekend.

However, current intelligence indicates that while the attack was carried out in Beersheba, Jerusalem is the main point of friction and where future terror attacks are more likely to take place.

Muslim worshippers pray during the Eid al-Fitr feast, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 13, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Approaching the Muslim holiday of Ramadan in April, police said they would not ease restrictions in the capital.

Last spring saw events in Jerusalem surrounding the Temple Mount and looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood snowball into an 11-day war between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Fearing a recurrence of last May’s violence between Israelis and the Palestinians, the Biden administration is urging Israel to take preemptive actions in order to prevent a similar eruption this coming April, which will see a confluence of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Christian holiday of Easter.

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