Police early Wednesday embarked on a massive roundup of illegal weapons in the Arab sector, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in the Knesset Wednesday morning – to the applause of Arab MKs, who said that they are the chief victims of illegal weapons.
With that, Erdan asked the Arab MKs to publicize their support in Arab communities. “You say that you want the illegal weapons collected, but the question is will you back up the police when they come into the towns? You haven’t until now.”
Erdan was speaking at a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, at which the thorny issue of illegal weapons was on the agenda. The discussion was called in the wake of last Friday’s shooting attack in Tel Aviv, in which Meshet Melhem, a resident of the Arab town of Ar’ara, killed two Israelis and injured eight others at a café in the center of the city.
Melhem apparently used an illegally obtained M-16 rifle to carry out the shooting, and MKs and government officials said that the incident highlighted the availability of illegal weapons in general, and in the Arab sector in particular.
According to Erdan, much of the illegal weaponry is taken from the IDF. Over the past two years, he said, police have opened over 5,000 cases connected with stolen IDF weapons. “I intend to make the collection of illegal weapons and the end of this phenomenon, the central pillar of my administration.”
Interestingly enough, Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, who is generally not on the side of the government in matters of policy – is an avid supporter of the idea of collecting illegal weapons. “We are the ones who are most hurt by this lack of enforcement,” Tibi said in the meeting. “One thousand one hundred victims have been killed since 2000 in Arab sector crime and murder. We have met with the Prime Minister and brought up the issue numerous times.”