National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced on Tuesday that his ministry is purchasing 10,000 rifles to arm civilian security teams, specifically those in towns close to Israel’s borders around the country, as well as mixed Jewish-Arab cities and West Bank settlements.
The minister, who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, said 4,000 assault rifles had already been acquired from an Israeli manufacturer and will be distributed immediately.
Helmets and bulletproof vests have also been acquired and will be distributed along with the assault rifles.
The step comes after some civilian security teams reported they had no weapons to fight off Hamas terrorists during Saturday’s devastating assault on southern Israel.
In a statement to the press on Tuesday, Ben Gvir said the new weapons and equipment will be distributed to “hundreds of towns” that have civilian security teams, some of which are manned by civilians who also volunteer in the Border Police, the Israel Police’s gendarmerie unit.
In addition, new civilian security teams will be established in towns that currently lack them, the national security ministry said.
“We will turn the world upside down so that towns are protected. I have given instructions for massively arming the civilian security teams to provide solutions for towns and cities, and so as not to leave towns unprotected, preparations will be made for a Guardian of the Walls 2,” said Ben Gvir, in reference to the May 2021 conflict with Hamas, which was accompanied by severe inter-communal violence in Israel’s mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
When Israel’s Jewish-Arab cities were the scene of intense riots during the May 2021 conflict with Hamas, Ben Gvir, at the time an MK but not a minister, urged armed Israeli civilians to go to such cities to combat Arab rioters.
Three people were killed and hundreds more were hurt in days of violent unrest in mixed cities.
Civilian security teams provide security to small towns and communities in Israel’s periphery and in West Bank settlements, some of which helped defend residents from the Hamas invasion on Saturday before the IDF was able to arrive.
Approximately three years ago, the IDF began taking away firearms from some of these security teams due to the repeated theft of such weapons.
Hebrew news outlets reported on the problem back in 2021, and members of some of the teams have told the media in the last few days that they were essentially unarmed during Hamas’s invasion.
Members of such a team told the Calcalist newspaper on Sunday that they had engaged Hamas terrorists armed with just pistols, while the terrorists bore assault rifles, grenades and anti-tank missiles.
“The IDF took our rifles recently, they left us with just a few. We repelled a Hamas commando terror cell with just pistols,” one said.
Along with the announcement of the firearms acquisition, Ben Gvir said that he appointed retired deputy police commissioner Shimon Lavi as ministerial coordinator for distributing firearms to the civilian security teams.