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Israeli civilians take up arms in the West Bank after Hamas’ surprise attack

An Israeli woman from the West Bank at a firing range. October 2023
An Israeli woman from the West Bank at a firing range. October 2023 Copyright Euronews
Copyright Euronews
By Valerie Gauriat
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Valerie Gauriat reports from the West Bank, where she spoke to Jewish settlers buying guns and learning how to defend themselves after Hamas’ surprise assault on 7 October.

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Hamas' surprise assault on Israel has left many people fearing for their safety, and in the days since many Israeli citizens have been buying guns and preparing to defend themselves from attack.

According to newly released data from the National Security Ministry, gun ownership in West Bank settlements is significantly higher than in Israel. 

“I myself bought the gun two weeks ago, following what happened in the South,” said Roni, a military veteran. “And like me, many other Hasidic people understood that maybe there will come a time when there will be nobody there to help them. No police and no army. And people are starting to understand that they will have to stand for themselves.”

Israel’s far-right leader and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir promised to provide 10,000 free weapons to settlers in the occupied West Bank, while also relaxing gun licence rules.

An Israeli man wears a side arm in the street. October 2023
An Israeli man wears a side arm in the street. October 2023Euronews

Municipalities are organising self-defence training classes and citizen security groups are being formed.

Firing ranges have also seen a marked increase in customers, with some people learning to fire a weapon for the first time.

“Actually I’ve wanted to come for a while because I live out in the woods and we're surrounded by Arabic villages,” said Leah, a Gush Etzion resident, and first-time visitor to a firing range.

She added: “My husband was drafted into the army. And I’m alone at home with the kids. And it’s the least of the safety that we could feel. If anything happens, we will be able to help at least ourselves and our kids.”

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