IDF officials have announced that they plan to collect weapons from members of emergency security teams in several Israeli communities in the Jordan Valley, and place them in central weapons stores instead of the squad members' homes. The decision, made by Brigade Commander Yohai Ben-Yishai, follows the theft of two weapons from private homes in the town of Shdemot-Mehola on Saturday. The weapons had been secured with two locks as the law requires.
The Land of Israel Legal Forum protested the decision. “As far as we know, the weapons that were stolen had been properly secured,” the organization said in a letter sent to top IDF officials. “There's no doubt that [the theft] must be investigated, but to take away the ability for residents of the Valley to defend themselves from harm is unreasonable."
“Not only does this order not increase security, it undermines it, and is dangerous. A delay in the security teams' response could cost lives,” the Forum concluded.
Residents of the area requested that if the IDF follows through with the weapons collection, additional IDF soldiers be sent to Israeli towns in the area to offer protection in place of the local patrols. Their request was sent to several senior officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Central Command head General Avi Mizrachi.
“If the army wants to take responsibility for security here, they're welcome to do so, but it's a huge area,” said regional council head David Elchiani. “The IDF arrives at the scene after 40 minutes on average, so our people need to be able to provide an instant response.”
Elchiani termed Ben-Yishai's decision “highly unusual,” and expressed hope that he would reconsider or would reach a compromise with local residents.