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Israel's Bennett urges citizens to carry guns, says 'this is the time'

Israeli prime minister called on volunteers to reinforce army and police, and also announced he was establishing a new 'border police brigade'
Israeli border police members gather by the Via Dolorosa (Street of Suffering) on 28 March 2022, as Israel raises its security measures (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on gun owners to arm themselves in public after five people were killed in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish area in Tel Aviv.

"After a period of quiet, there is a violent eruption by those who want to destroy us, those who want to hurt us at any price," Bennett said in a video statement from his home on Wednesday where he is quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19.

"What is expected of you, Israeli citizens? Vigilance and responsibility. Whoever has a gun licence, this is the time to carry a gun."

"We are also currently evaluating a larger framework to involve civilian volunteers who want to help and be of assistance," he added.

His remarks came hours after Tuesday's shooting, which came days after two similar incidents left six people dead and several others wounded.

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Three of the four assailants in the attacks, all fatally shot in the aftermath, were Palestinian citizens of Israel. 

"We are experiencing a murderous terror wave and as in all previous waves, this time we will also overcome," Bennett said. 

The premier said his government agreed to form a new "border police brigade" that would track those who ever had any connection to the Islamic State (IS) group, and said he was looking at ways to incorporate volunteers, "citizens who want to assist".

In the wake of Tuesday's attack, Israeli police announced they had raised alert levels to the highest since May last year. 

Violence spiked last Ramadan when Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, to make way for Israeli settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel, and rockets were fired from armed groups in Gaza, triggering Israel's large-scale military operation on the besieged Strip which killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to the UN. In Israel, 12 people were killed by rockets launched from Gaza.

The Israeli army on Wednesday said an additional 12 battalions had been deployed along the fence separating Israel from the West Bank and a further two battalions were deployed along the Gaza Strip.

The office of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said 1,000 trained soldiers were also to be sent to assist Israeli police in "internal security operations".

Troops will assist in gathering intelligence and guiding security operations against Palestinians who may be in Israel without a permit.

Former general warns of another Nakba

Meanwhile, requests for arms purchases by Israeli citizens have been on the rise, according to the Walla news website.

According to data from the ministry of public security, requests increased three and a half times from the same period last year, Walla reported.

More than a thousand gun purchase applications have been submitted since the beginning of March, and the number of applications has doubled in the past two weeks. 

The latest incident has triggered numerous instances of settler violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, and in Bnei Brak - the scene of Tuesday's attack - scores of Israelis gathered and could be heard chanting anti-Palestinian slogans, including "death to Arabs". 

Late on Tuesday, Uzi Dayan, a former Israeli army general and member of Israel's parliament, warned the Palestinians of another Nakba.

"The thing we need to tell the Arab community, even those who didn't participate in the attacks, is to be careful," he said.

"If we reach a civil war situation, things will end in one word and a situation you know, which is Nakba," he added. "This is what will happen in the end." 

The Nakba, or "the catastrophe", is the name Palestinians gave to the massacres and forced expulsions they endured at the hand of Zionist militias in 1948.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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