Former Israeli police officer has set up an armed Jewish civilian group in the Naqab desert amid heightened tensions with Palestinians.
Occupied East Jerusalem – Palestinian residents of the Naqab (Negev) say they are fearful due to the formation of armed Jewish vigilante groups amid heightened tensions in the area.
The Barel Rangers unit, a Jewish civilian group, was formally launched on Sunday by a former Israeli police officer, Almog Cohen, claiming inadequate police governance in the southern region. Made up of volunteers, the group “will undergo training in fighting terror” and “show its presence and maintain security”, its website says, according to Israeli media.
It will act as an “independent force”, the website reads, and “each volunteer will have the authority, even when not accompanied by a policeman; we are not dependent on political agents.”
After initially stating support, the Israeli police later said it would not be involved and did not attend the launch event on Sunday, but officials have not said they will prevent the group’s operation.
“These are thugs – terrorist militias. What scares us is that there is silent consent from the police,” Amer Hzayyel, a researcher and expert on the Naqab desert, told Al Jazeera.
In a social media post about the slain Israeli soldier after whom the militia was named, Cohen reportedly wrote: “When your life is under threat, it’s only you and the terrorist. You are the policeman, the judge and the executioner… ultimately, you are soldiers on the chessboard of the despicable and hesitant politicians. There’s a threat to your life? Kill. It’s simple and easy.”