Shlomo Vasertil, one of those who handed over their weapons, told Ynet this was a sad day for him.
“It’s a day where a law abiding citizen who used the weapon to protect himself is asked by the State of Israel to return it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gush Katif security chief Ami Shaked told Ynet he has collected hundreds of weapons so far from residents in five major Gaza communities, Netzer Hazani, Ganei Tal, Elei Sinai, Nisanit, and Dugit, as well as smaller settlements.
“We are aware that the entire community is facing a highly emotional time right now,” he said. “I don’t need someone, by mistake, using a weapon in the heat of the moment. This entire initiative is ours, without the IDF’s involvement, as a result of the awareness of the need to disarm the population from weapons before we reach day one (of the evacuation.)”
“I estimate that had the IDF came and asked for the weapons, the settlers wouldn’t have handed them over,” Shaked added.
At 9:30 this morning, dozens of residents of Ganei Tal handed in their weapons to the settlement’s head of security. Many of the weapons were handed in wrapped in ribbons, while others were returned with stickers and letters from the residents, including one which was addressed to the IDF chief of staff.
“This gun went with me for 26 years, during the winter and summer, in the heart and cold. It was there to protect my life and my family’s life. It makes me sad to hand it back today because the defense minister is threatening us over the media. It’s a sad day for me,” Vasertil told Ynet moments before handing in his weapon.
“The majority will return their weapons by August 15”
In recent days the security branch of the Gaza Regional Council has been busy with tracking and collection weapons from residents in Gush Katif settlements. Most of the weapons were stored in the homes of residents, and were not used by community volunteer defense groups. Weapons are also being collected from residents who have already left Gaza.
According to Shaked, the majority of the weapons will be collected by August 15.
Some of the residents have kept their weapons however, especially those who received their guns from their reserve army units. The settlers say that they will need the weaponry for self defense in their new homes.
The IDF has welcomed the initiative by the Gaza Council. At this point, the army said it had no plans to become involved in the weapons collection program, but has also said that a decision on the matter has not yet been taken.