Israelis with gun licenses should carry arms, says Bennett

What can Israel's citizens expect? "Be alert. Whoever has a weapons license, this is the time to carry it," said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

 Israelis wave flags as they protest against recent terrorist attacks outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, on March 30, 2022.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
Israelis wave flags as they protest against recent terrorist attacks outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, on March 30, 2022.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

All of Israel's security wings - the Shin Bet, the IDF, Israel Police - have significantly increased their intelligence operations to reach attackers before they carry out attacks, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced in a broadcast message late Wednesday evening.

"From my end, there is no limit to the resources that we can dedicate to this," said Bennett. 

Israel Police has switched to emergency format and will receive backup from the IDF. Separately, the IDF has increased its presence in the West Bank ahead of Ramadan and as calls come to limit or even close off entry by Palestinians to sovereign Israel. 

The man who killed five people in a terror attack in Bnei Brak on Tuesday is Dia Hamarsha, 27, from the village of Ya'bad in the northern West Bank near Jenin. His has already been mapped for destruction. 

Bennett also announced that any soldiers with elementary combat training (basic training level 03 and above) will take their weapons home with them on weekends.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting, March 20, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting, March 20, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

What can Israel's citizens expect? "Be alert. Whoever has a weapons license, this is the time to carry it," he said. 

In a video statement released earlier after the Bnei Brak attack, Bennett said that Israel is "currently facing a new wave of terrorism.”

"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, whose hatred of Jews, of the State of Israel, drives them crazy," Bennett said in a short video address Wednesday morning.

"They are prepared to die – so that we will not live in peace," he added.

Israel has already pushed to thwart what it feared would be outbreaks of Palestinian violence, similar to what sparked a Gaza war last May and a wave of ethnic Jewish-Arab riots within sovereign Israel.

"What we witnessed less than a year ago in Operation Guardians of the Walls, the terrorism and the violence, from within Israel and inside Israel, was the first sign," Bennett said. 

"This is a great and complex challenge for the IDF, the ISA and the Israel Police that requires the security establishment to be creative and for us to adapt ourselves to the new threat and read the tell-tale signs of lone individuals, sometimes without organizational affiliation, and to be in control on the ground in order to thwart terrorism even before it happens," he explained.

"The security forces of the State of Israel are the best in the world. They are up to the task and, as in the previous waves, we will prevail this time as well," he added. 

He sent his condolences to the families of the victims, wished a speedy recovery to the wounded and thanked the civilians and police officers who helped end the attacks for their heroism.

"I stand by the civilians and police officers who shot the terrorists in the various locations. I have spoken with some of them and thanked them on behalf of all of us. These are heroes of Israel who, thanks to their courage, have saved lives," he said.

"We face a challenging period. We have experience in dealing with terrorism, from the very beginning of Zionism. They did not break us then and they will not break us now," Bennett said.

"The secret of our existence is the mutual responsibility among us and our determination to maintain the home that we have built – at any price," he explained, adding that "citizens of Israel, we will prevail this time as well."

Bennett, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 held security consultations last night with the Defense Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Public Security Minister, the IDF Chief-of-Staff, the Director of the ISA, the Israel Police Inspector General, the Director of the National Security Council, the Prime Minister's Military Secretary, the head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate, and the head of the IDF Operations Directorate.

Additional situational assessments were held throughout the day.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that Israel needs many more police officers in the field "and that we will make sure that this will happen."

He called on Israelis to unite in the face of this latest terror wave which he said was designed not just to take innocent lives but to tear apart the fabric of Israeli society by sowing divisiveness and hatred.

"Terror's purpose is not only to murder innocents but also to set us against each other in hatred and anger so that Israeli society will be undermined and dismantled from within through an exchange of accusations that would lead to internal violence," Lapid said.

"Terrorists want to see violent riots on the streets of Israel," he added.

"We must not allow terrorists to determine our policies" or to "tear us apart from within," Lapid said. 

Israeli resilience is the best weapon against terror, Lapid said, at a joint press conference with the visiting Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

"Our strength is built on the alliances we have, and on our commitment to shared values. Israel and Austria share a deep friendship, and you and I are determined to deepen and strengthen it even further," Lapid said. 

He also referenced Monday's Negev Summit, in which Israel hosted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers from four Arab countries: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt.

Lapid told Schallenberg that "our meeting today, like the Negev Summit earlier this week the best response to terror. 

"Peace and friendship are the alternatives to violence and chaos," Lapid said.

"We choose peace through strength. This is the choice of the strong," he added.

Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu visited one of the victims' families on Wednesday and said afterward, "We must return the quiet and security to Israel's citizens. We can do it." 

In a rare statement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terrorist attack late on Tuesday, Israeli media reported.

"The killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians will only lead to a deterioration of the situation ahead of Ramadan," the PA head said. "We are trying to obtain some stability."

Abbas also warned, however, against using the attack as justification for settler violence against Palestinians. "This circle of violence shows true, lasting peace is the only solution to maintaining the security and stability for our peoples."

Hamas meanwhile, praised the attack saying in a statement that “responding to the crimes and terrorism of the occupation is a legitimate right for all our people until the occupation is removed from our land."

Calling it a “blessed and heroic operation against the Zionist occupation soldiers in the so-called 'Tel Aviv' area,” Hamas said “that all the heroic operations carried out by our Palestinian people, in every inch of our occupied land, comes in the context of the natural and legitimate response to the terrorism of the occupation and its escalating crimes against our land, our people and our sanctities."

"We have repeatedly warned the occupation of the consequences of escalating its violations and crimes, as our Palestinian people will not remain passive in front of it, and will confront its terrorism by all means, and they will protect their sanctuary, the farthest corner and the entire occupied lands, and he will defend it with comprehensive resistance, which will continue to deter the occupation, and to restrain its aggression, until its departure from our land," the terror group added.