Police confiscated pistols from two civilians who shot a terrorist attacker in Beersheba on Tuesday, leading to an altercation between one of the men and an officer at a police station.
Police threatened to arrest one of the men after he refused to leave the police station without his pistol, and a crowd gathered outside the station to demonstrate in support of the men.
An Arab Israeli knifeman killed four people in the southern city of Beersheba before the two civilians confronted him with pistols, urged him to lower his knife, then shot him when he lunged at one of them.
Police said they took the pistols for ballistics tests after the incident as part of standard investigation protocol, and will return the weapons to the men after the tests are complete.
One of the men who shot the terrorist refused to leave the Beersheba police station without the pistol, causing a spat with an officer there. Channel 12 aired video of the officer berating the man inside the station.
In the video filmed by a bystander the officer tells the man, “Don’t play games with me, you are in a police station.”
“You want the pistol? Wait [outside], that’s all,” the officer says.
The man appealed to the officer, saying he felt in danger because video of him shooting the attacker had been published in the news and on social media.
“You took away my weapon, and I’m marked everywhere in Israel — every police station and every WhatsApp group,” he says in the video.
“I’m not leaving here without my pistol, ok?” he says.
The officer insists he leave, or wait outside the station, saying, “If not I will arrest you.”
After Channel 12 broadcast the footage, Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai ordered the ballistics laboratory be opened and the tests completed during the night to seed up the process.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said, “In this case, we have to make an exception to the protocol, to exercise common sense and allow the hero who shot the terrorist to return home with his weapon.”
Opposition lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Religious Zionism party said the police’s behavior was “intolerable and unacceptable and damaging to the security of Israeli citizens.”
Police said in a statement, “Weapons used against the attack today in the tragic incident were taken as part of accepted investigation activities and will be returned to their owners at the end. This is a routine investigation procedure.”
“Israel Police praise the civilians’ response in stopping the deadly attack,” the statement said. “To prevent distress for the civilians who acted with courage and determination, the necessary checks will be carried out tonight.”
Some Beersheba residents protested against police following the attack, including a crowd outside the police station that chanted “Shame.” Police have come under criticism in recent years for lawlessness in parts of southern Israel.
Shabtai was heckled when he arrived at the scene of the attack in the southern city to give a statement to media.
A man in the crowd following Shabtai as he walked to his vehicle repeatedly shouted “disgrace” at him.
Later some 200 protesters gathered at the site of the attack, then headed to the police station where they demonstrated against what they said was the lack of law enforcement in the south, a complaint that has been voiced by local residents for years.
The protesters, mostly right-wing activists, were joined by lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.
Ben Gvir said that “a government that relies on the Islamic movement has no political right to exist. He” was referring to Ra’am, an Arab party in the governing coalition. Ra’am has championed the rights of Bedouin in the south, where the attacker came from, though the party, and other Arab Israeli parties, condemned the stabbing.
Extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel also participated in the demonstration, calling for martial law “to clean” the Negev.
The four people killed in the attack were named as Doris Yahbas, 49, a mother of three, Laura Yitzhak, 43, also a mother of three, Rabbi Moshe Kravitzky, 48, a father of four, and Menahem Yehezkel, 67, a brother to four.
Palestinian media identified the stabber as 34-year-old Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an, a terror convict from the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev. Abu al-Qi’an, who died of his wounds on the scene, had served four years in prison for plotting to join the fundamentalist Islamic State terror group in Syria. He was released in 2019. Shabtai said he likely acted alone in Tuesday’s attack.