JERUSALEM: The Israeli army is to begin collecting weapons from Jewish settlers as a result of the calm in the West Bank and over fears they may be used against Palestinians, a newspaper reported on Friday.
The move would affect hundreds of weapons handed out to settlers by the army at the start of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which erupted in September 2000, the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily reported.
The Israeli army could not immediately confirm the report, which said the military directive had already been passed on to security officers in settlements in and around the southern city of Hebron.
According to the paper, the decision was taken in light of the improved security situation in the past two years, and also due to the growing number of weapons being stolen from settlements.
But it was also taken over concerns about settlers taking the law into their own hands and shooting any Palestinians they perceive as a threat, the paper said, without citing a source.
When the weapons were first handed out, it was one gun for every 10 settlers, but in practice, many more were handed out, it said.
A military source told the paper the Hebron operation would be repeated across the entire West Bank.
"You have to remember that in the last two years it has become significantly quieter. Of course, if a need arises, we will return the weapons to the residents, but with supervision," the source was quoted as saying.