Police tell PM they can’t launch major operation against illegal weapons — report

Bennett said to ask law enforcement officials to seize opportunity amid string of terror attacks, but they told him they’re under too much strain

Weapons seized by Israeli security forces after an alleged gun-smuggling from Lebanon, on March 23, 2022. (Israel Police)
Weapons seized by Israeli security forces after an alleged gun-smuggling from Lebanon, on March 23, 2022. (Israel Police)

Amid a string of deadly terror attacks in Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wanted police to seize the opportunity to conduct a wide-scale operation and confiscate hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons circulating in the Arab community, according to a Friday report.

Bennett, however, found that police are incapable of launching such an operation, because they are already working at full stretch, Channel 12 news reported.

Law enforcement officials made it clear to Bennett and other ministers that they could not carry out such a task immediately, as it would be very difficult to take defensive and offensive initiative at the same time, the report said.

Some 400,000 illegal weapons are circulating in Israel, according to a 2020 Knesset report, the vast majority of them in Arab communities, which have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly by organized crime.

The report comes days after a deadly terror attack in Hadera, in which two Arab Israelis from Umm al-Fahm shot two Border Police officers dead. The Islamic State-inspired terrorists arrived at the scene with over 1,000 rounds of ammunition that they attempted to use with the officers’ rifles, which they snatched after killing them with their illegal handguns.

In recent days, right-wing activists and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu have accused the government of being unable to handle terror or illegal weapons because the Islamist party Ra’am is part of the coalition.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) speaks to Ra’am leader MK Mansour Abbas in the Knesset on November 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

But Arab lawmakers, including Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas, have been openly calling for police to enter Arab towns and cities to collect the thousands of illegal weapons.

According to Channel 12, police in theory could seize the weapons with the help of the army, and flood the streets with forces, but some think that would be unwise as criminals would better hide their weapons. Instead, police would continue to confiscate illegal weapons based on precise intelligence, the report said.

The Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, said there were 125 Arabs killed in Israel in 2021 as a result of violence and crime, of whom 62 were below the age of 30. This year, 22 suspected homicides have been recorded by the nonprofit so far.

Arab Israelis blame police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

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