The Judea and Samaria Division has decided to collect hundreds of weapons handed to West Bank settlers by the army in light of the relative calm in the territories in recent years, infuriating settlement leaders.
At the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, more than a decade ago, the settlers received weapons from the army to help defend their communities.
The recent improvement in the security-related situation in the West Bank, alongside a significant increase in weapon thefts in the settlements, has led to a decision to reduce the amount of military weapons available to settlers.
IDF officials have also expressed their fear that settlers may take the law into their own hands and fire at Palestinians approaching the communities' fences.
Hebron's Jewish residents will be the first to be affected by the move.
The security coordinators in Hebron, South Mount Hebron and Kiryat Arba have been instructed by Colonel Guy Hazut, commander of the Judea Brigade, to collect the military weapons from the settlers and hand them over to the army.
The settlers, as expected, are enraged by the new move. "This is a reckless decision which is part of a culture of improvised solutions," a leader of one of the Jewish communities in the area told Yedioth Ahronoth.
"Two weeks before the murder
of policeman Shuki Sofer (in June 2010), the Judea Brigade commander said that terror attacks in the area were a matter of the past. We mustn't get confused – this isn't Switzerland."
The settlement head rejected the IDF's claim that the move was crucial in light of weapon thefts in the area. "There is no calm where terrorists steal weapons. And anyway, much more weapons are stolen in the IDF, even from the vehicles of senior commanders."
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who lives in Hebron, slammed Colonel Hazut. "It looks like he believes settlers are only good for serving in the army, but not for protecting themselves. We are being abandoned."
A military source explained that the Judea and Samaria Division planned to collect thousands of weapons from the entire area under its control, and not just from the Hebron area. "We must remember that the past two years have seen a significant calm. Obviously, we'll return the weapons to the residents if needed, but under supervision."
The IDF Spokesperson's Office clarified Thursday that the weapons being collected are not in use and that the move is aimed at fighting weapon thefts and in light of evaluations of the security-related situation.