The Mayor of Jerusalem today stoked a controversy by asking Israeli residents of the holy city to carry their weapons to foil any possible terrorist attacks from Palestinians.
Nir Barkat’s call to arms comes after several weeks of heightened tensions in which the capital was rocked by several stabbing incidents as well as violent clashes between the Israeli police and Arabs around the volatile Jerusalem compound, revered both by the Muslims and Jews alike.
A former military officer and licensed gun owner, Barkat was himself seen carrying a weapon in the primarily Arab neighbourood of Issawiya in East Jerusalem recently, saying he wanted to set an example during tense periods.
Barkat said: “One advantage that Israel has is that there are quite a few ex-members of military units with operational combat experience.”
“Possessing weapons increases the confidence of residents, who know that in addition to police there are many people who are not afraid to intervene. If we look at the statistics in Jerusalem and elsewhere, we see that aside from the police, civilians carrying weapons have foiled terror attacks.
“They will increase the likelihood of fast intervention,” Barkat was quoted as saying by Ynetnews.
The controversial statement came against the backdrop of a deteriorating security situation which has in recent days spread from Jerusalem and the West Bank to other parts of Israel.
The Commander of the Ashdod police station, Chief Superintendent Noam Shekel, also called on residents who have a weapons permit to carry them.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, struggling to calm down the situation, today said that a prohibition order issued earlier banning Jewish lawmakers from visiting Temple Mount, (referred by Muslims as Haram al-Shaif (Noble Sanctuary) that houses the al-Aqsa mosque), would be also applicable to Arab parliamentarians.
“Let us be clear, the directive to prevent MKs (Members of Knesset) and ministers from entering Temple Mount applies to Jews and Arabs alike,” a government spokesperson said.
Tensions have been running high and four Israelis have been killed in stabbings by Palestinian attackers in recent days, while five Palestinians, including three of the attackers, have been killed.