Tel Aviv (AFP) – Cars are double- and even triple-parked outside a gun shop in Israel’s coastal city of Tel Aviv. Inside, customers jostle each other as they wait to be served.

Israelis fearful of a rising number of knife and other attacks by Palestinians are increasingly turning to firepower for personal protection.

Seven Israelis and around 30 Palestinians have been killed in an upsurge of unrest since October 1, with many of the attackers wielding blades.

One man at the store does not even bother to remove his motorbike helmet or interrupt a call on his mobile as he orders and pays for a box of bullets.

“The last time the shop was so busy was probably in the 1970s. I’ve never before seen such stress or panic,” says owner Iftash Ben-Yehuda.

He is now having to ration some of his wares, estimating demand to be about four times higher than normal.

“There’s been a shortage of tear gas grenades in the country for a few days, so I limit them to two per customer and give priority to women,” the 37-year-old tells AFP.

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Smith & Wesson, Glock and Israeli-made Jericho models top the handgun sales league, costing anything between 2,000 and 4,000 shekels ($500-$1,000 U.S. dollars), he says.

He has decided not to charge for weapons training “to participate in the public security effort”, Ben-Yehuda says.

– ‘A game-changer’ –

“In a knife attack or a shooting, an armed and well-trained civilian can be a game-changer, neutralising a terrorist in seconds. This can mean the difference between an attack with one or more wounded and one with several people dead.”

“Last week, when my neighbour was attacked by young masked Palestinians who stoned her car and the army took 20 minutes to arrive, I said to myself ‘Right, now’s the time to get the Glock from the gun safe’,” Aviva Yisraeli, a mother living in the Tekoa settlement in the southern West Bank, told AFP.

Since then, whenever she drives anywhere the pistol is close to hand.