A surge in violence in Israel prompted the national police chief to call on citizens with gun licenses to carry their weapons as a way to fight back.

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After a two-week surge of Israeli-Palestinian violence, Israel's national police chief has caused a furor and prompted criticism from cabinet ministers by calling on citizens with gun licenses to carry their weapons as a way to fight back if attacked.

``I don't suggest people go around with hunting guns, but pistols that can be tucked into a belt don't have to be left in the safe or a drawer,' outgoing Police Commissioner Yaacov Terner said. His comments were made after a soldier was slain and his body discovered off a Jerusalem highway Friday and an Israeli Jew driving a van was hacked to death in the occupied Gaza Strip.``The more there will be seen a greater amount of weapons in the field,' Terner said, ``the more the feeling of security among the public will go up.'

Terner has estimated 300,000 Israeli civilians have gun licenses, not including thousands more who are in the police, private security agencies and military reserve. In addition, about 175,000 Israelis serve in the armed forces and many tote their weapons openly on street corners, in restaurants and while hitchhiking to and from their base.

Assaf Chefets, police commander in Tel Aviv, said: ``There is no place like Israel with so many people who have undergone military training and have weapons, that are able to react to a knife attack, or even a more serious attack. ... The public is the target of the terrorist attacks, and it is upon them to supply the appropriate answers.'

The remarks were read by many Israelis as an admission that the police are not fully in charge at a time of inflamed passions.

Since March 1, daily incidents in which Israeli Jews and Palestinians have been killed and wounded - not only in the occupied territories but also in Israel - have generated a climate of tension and anxiety.

Terner, who recently was forced to retire and is about to leave office, has complained sharply that the police are seriously undermanned, reinforcing the public's concerns.

Terner's statement was sharply criticized Sunday by cabinet ministers.

Education Minister Shulamit Aloni said that in a climate of ``hysteria ... people stop being responsible for what they are doing individually.'

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