Israeli extreme-right minister Ben Gvir to arm civilians with assault rifles
Israel's far-right security minister Itamar Ben Gvir has announced that weapons, including 10,000 assault rifles, will be distributed to Israeli civilians, according to Israeli media reports.
Ben Gvir made the comments during a visit to a police station near the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. A Hamas attack on Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip on 7 October resulted in the death of over 1,300 Israelis.
Israel has relentlessly bombarded the Gaza Strip since then, flattening entire neighbourhoods and killing 1,354 people, including 326 children.
"Even before the disaster, we distributed a record number of 27,000 weapons. Our policy was to distribute as many as possible," Ben Gvir said in a press conference.
The distribution of arms will be focused on border areas, in the occupied West Bank and areas inside the 1948 borders which host a large population of Palestinians.
Helmets and bulletproof vests will also be handed out along with the rifles, according to Israeli media reports.
Ben Gvir said that his ministry was "easing restrictions" on the possession of firearms, adding that 4,000 new assault rifles had been purchased from an Israeli weapons manufacturer.
During the press conference, Ben Gvir was interrupted by a heckler who shouted: "You are a shame! It is on your head, there are thousands of dead here," at the minister, according to Haaretz.
Earlier this year, Ben Gvir proposed the formation of a new 2,000-strong civil militia that will be directly under his ministry’s control, arguing it would be used to tackle "nationalist crime" and "terrorism" and be used for"restoring governance where needed".
The security minister previously sparked alarm by urging football hooligans known for their anti-Palestinian violence to join the country’s nascent National Guard.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 in April, Ben Gvir called on members of La Familia - a racist group of fans of Israeli Premier League club Beitar Jerusalem - to join the new force.
The group have become notorious in Israel in recent years for their attacks on Palestinians.