Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat urges Israelis to carry firearms at all times to combat 'terrorists'

Mr Barkat has faced criticism following his decision to carry a rifle while visiting an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem

Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat has urged Israelis with gun licences to carry firearms at all times following a wave of violence across Israel.

An official statement issued by Mr Barkat said: “The mayor encourages licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to increase security. He himself serves as a personal example of this," Israel National News reports.

"Given the current escalation [of violence] in the security situation, those with a licensed firearm who know what to do with it must go out with [their weapon] - it's an imperative," Mr Barkat reportedly told Israel’s Army Radio. "In a way, it's like military reserve duty."

The most recent spate of unrest began three weeks ago and has spread from Jerusalem to areas of Israel and the West Bank.

On Wednesday, stabbings occurred outside a mall in central Israel, in a southern Israeli town and in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In total, four Israelis have died in recent stabbings and roadside shootings, while five Palestinians, including three attackers, have been killed.  

Mr Barkat has faced criticism following his decision to carry a rifle while visiting an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem on Monday.

His office said that as a former military officer the mayor was licensed to carry the weapon.

"Many terror attacks in Jerusalem have been prevented or neutralized due to the quick actions and response of responsible bystanders," the mayor's office said, referring to an incident in February when Mr Barkat wrestled to the ground a Palestinian man suspected by stabbing an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man. 

Adnan Husseini, a Palestinian official for Jerusalem, described Barkat's armed appearance as "a declaration of war" on the city's Palestinian residents.

"It's incitement for other Israelis to do the same," he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was forced to cancel his appearance a European summit due to the violence, has also warned Israelis to be on guard.

"Civilians are at the forefront of the war against terrorism and must also be on maximum alert," Netanyahu said.  

Additional reporting by Press Association