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Judea and Samaria leaders outraged as US sets conditions on rifle sales

Jerusalem reportedly “assured” the U.S. that 24,000 rifles destined for Israel would not go to volunteer defense forces in Judea and Samaria.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan during a march to the biblical site of Joshua's Altar on Mount Ebal in Samaria, Oct. 2, 2023. Photo by Elihay Menachem/Samaria Regional Council.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan during a march to the biblical site of Joshua's Altar on Mount Ebal in Samaria, Oct. 2, 2023. Photo by Elihay Menachem/Samaria Regional Council.

Judea and Samaria leaders sharply criticized the Biden administration on Monday following a report that it had barred a shipment of rifles from going to Israeli civilian volunteer defense forces.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that U.S. State Department officials had received “assurances” from Jerusalem that 24,000 M-16 rifles to be purchased from the United States by Israel would only go to uniformed police officers.

Many Israeli towns and villages, particularly in Judea and Samaria, have armed volunteer defense forces, called “kitot konenut.” Armed and trained by the state, and comprising mostly civilian military or law-enforcement veterans, their purpose is to act as a first-response force in cases of terrorist infiltration.

During Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, Kibbutz Nir Am was saved by its volunteer defense force, who held off the terrorists until police reinforcements arrived.

“The American demand not to provide weapons to the squads shows anything but great friendship,” said Shlomo Ne’eman, chairman of the Yesha Council, in response to the New York Times report.

“Over half a million residents of Judea and Samaria face terror attacks, and incitement from mosques to carry out attacks, on a daily basis,” said Ne’eman. “Just last Thursday, we lost Elhanan Klein, may his memory be a blessing, in a shooting,” he added.

Klein, 29, a father of three from Einav, northwest of Shechem (Nablus) in Samaria, was murdered last week as he was returning home on leave from military reserve duty.

Judea and Samaria leaders accuse left-wing groups and NGOs of fostering misconceptions about their communities abroad, including in the United States.

“At a time when our best men and women are fighting in Gaza, we are subjected to heinous … blood libels against our residents by extreme left-wing organizations such as B’Tselem and Yesh Din,” said Ne’eman.

“Instead of having an airlift to equip the volunteer defense squads against enemy attacks, they take away our right to defend ourselves and our children. This false and irresponsible campaign may, God forbid, lead to bloodshed,” he added.

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, also addressed the report.

“Someone here is confused,” he said. “Residents of Judea and Samaria are in great danger. The concern is that what happened in the south will happen in their communities, that are adjacent to the villages of the terrorist Palestinian Authority.”

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