The Israeli government has established more than 700 new civilian security teams since Hamas launched its war against the Jewish state almost four weeks ago, the National Security Ministry said on Thursday.
“Since the outbreak of hostilities, new standby squads have been established in 40 regional councils that include 1,000 kibbutzim, moshavim and communities that never had standby units,” the ministry said.
Standby squads are made up of local residents, usually former military, who train together and are qualified to use automatic rifles. They serve as first-response defense teams, holding down the fort until regular troops arrive.
At least two kibbutzim in the western Negev were saved during Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault because of such squads.
In the aftermath of the attacks in the south, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said his ministry was preparing for possible Arab riots in mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
During a visit to the western Negev city of Sderot, one of the communities attacked by Hamas, Ben-Gvir announced had he ordered Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai to make preparations for “a scenario of ‘Guardian of the Walls II,’ which I think is looming.”
Ben-Gvir’s remarks referred to the widespread Arab rioting in Israeli cities with large numbers of Arab and Jewish residents that took place during the IDF’s May 2021 aerial operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Ben-Gvir also relaxed the restrictions on firearm permits for Israeli civilians. Eligible citizens without a criminal record or health issues can now be issued a gun license within a week after a telephone interview with the ministry’s Firearm Licensing Department.
A command center was set up last week to handle the flood of applications.
“There are now over 120,000 requests for the Firearms Division. Please be patient and the division representatives will get back to everyone,” Ben-Gvir said in a post on X on Oct. 25.