JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday announced a series of punitive steps against Palestinians, including a plan to strengthen Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in response to an A series of gun attacks left seven Israelis dead and five wounded.
The announcement casts a shadow over US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit next week and threatens to heighten tensions after one of the bloodiest months in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in several years.
Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet, made up of hardline politicians aligned with the West Bank settlement movement, approved the measures in the wake of two shootings, including one attack outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem on Friday night in which seven people were killed.
Netanyahu’s office said the Security Cabinet had agreed to blockade the attacker’s house shortly before the demolition. It also plans to cancel social security benefits for the families of the attackers, make it easier for Israelis to obtain gun licenses and ramp up efforts to collect illegal weapons.
The announcement said that in response to the public celebration of Palestinians following the attack, Israel would take new steps to “fortify the settlements” this week. It does not give more details.
There was no immediate response from Washington. The Biden administration, which has condemned the shooting, opposes settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank – lands Palestinians seek for a future state. The topic is likely high on the agenda when Blinken arrives on Monday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The weekend shootings followed a deadly Israeli raid in the West Bank on Thursday that killed nine Palestinians, most of them militants. In response, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets at Israel, triggering a series of Israeli air strikes in response. In total, 32 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting this month.
Early Sunday, the Israeli military said security agents in the West Bank settlement of Kedumim shot a Palestinian armed with a handgun and released a photo of what it said was a weapon. There are no further details on the incident or the status of the alleged attacker.
It remains unclear whether Israel’s steps will work. The attackers in the weekend shooting, including a 13-year-old boy, both appeared to have acted alone and were not part of organized militant groups.
Alternatively, Mr. Netanyahu could be under pressure from members of his government, a collection of ultra-religious and nationalist politicians, to take even tougher action. Such steps could risk more violence and potentially drag on the militant group Hamas in Gaza.
“If it is even possible to get this god of violence back into the bottle, even if only for a short time, it will require consolidation and proper deployment of forces… and crisis management. panic carefully without being guided by widespread calls for revenge.” Amos Harel, defense affairs columnist for Haaretz newspaper.
Friday’s shooting, outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem on the Jewish Sabbath, left seven Israelis dead and three wounded before the gunman was killed by police. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis in 15 years.
Authorities have released the names of four of the victims. They include Asher Natan, 14 years old; Eli Mizrahi, 48, and his wife Natali, 45; and Rafael Ben Eliyahu, 56 years old. Funerals for some of the victims were scheduled for Saturday night.
Mourning mourners lit candles near the synagogue on Saturday night, and in a sign of the tense atmosphere, a mob attacked an Israeli television group that had arrived in the area, chanting “the Leftists go home.”
Ella Sakovich, Natali Mizrahi’s aunt, said that her niece was celebrating the Jewish Sabbath with her husband and father when they heard gunfire outside on Friday night.
“While eating, she and her husband wanted to help and went out of the house to treat the wounded; they shot both of them,” Sakovich said in a statement from Hadassah Hospital, where Natali Mizrahi works. Serve food to patients.
In response to the shooting, Israeli police have stepped up operations across east Jerusalem and say they have arrested 42 people, including family members, in connection with the shooter.
But after Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire elsewhere in east Jerusalem, wounding an Israeli man and his sons, aged 47 and 23, paramedics said. . The doctors added that both were fully awake and in moderate to severe condition in hospital.
As police rushed to the scene, two passersby with licensed weapons shot and overpowered the 13-year-old attacker, police said. Police confiscated his handgun and took the injured teenager to the hospital.
Blinken is expected to arrive in Israel on Monday. The Biden administration condemned Friday night’s shootings and called for calm on all sides, but offered some details on how they expect to advance these goals.
The attacks pose an important test for Israel’s new far-right government.
Both Palestinian attackers behind Friday’s and Saturday’s shootings were from east Jerusalem.
Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem have permanent resident status, allowing them to work and move freely throughout Israel, but they are subjected to below-average public services and are not allowed to vote in elections. national election.
Residence may be revoked if a Palestinian is found to be living outside the city for an extended period of time or under certain security circumstances.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Middle East war.
Palestinians seek all three areas for a future independent state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and considers the entire city as its indivisible capital.
Israel’s new national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has presented himself as an enforcer of law and order, and made headlines with his promise to take even stronger action against the Palestinians.
Speaking to reporters at a hospital where the victims were being treated, Ben-Gvir said he wanted the home of the gunman in Friday’s attack to be sealed off immediately as punishment. fined and criticized the Israeli attorney general for delaying the order.
Overhauling Israel’s justice system, including the attorney general’s office, is high on the agenda of the new government, which argues that unelected judges and jurists have the right to overwhelming force.
The divisive issue has fueled weekly protests by Israelis, who say the proposed sweeping changes would weaken the Supreme Court and undermine democracy.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Tel Aviv on Saturday night for a new rally. Some held up banners describing Mr Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir as “threats to world peace.”
The marchers also held a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the Jerusalem shootings.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank upheld its decision to suspend security coordination with Israel in protest at the deadly Jenin raid.
Following a meeting chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority called on the international community and the US administration to force Israel to stop its attacks in the West Bank.
Last year, as the Israeli military stepped up arrest raids following a series of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel, at least 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. That is the highest annual death toll in more than a decade and a half. More than 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis last year, according to Israeli figures.
Israel said most of those killed were militants. But young men who opposed the incursions and others who did not participate in the confrontations were also killed.