Israel announces measures to ‘strengthen’ settlements following attacks

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel will increase security and “strengthen the settlements” in response to gun attacks in Jerusalem Friday and Saturday that killed seven Israelis and badly wounded five others, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday.

“In response to the abhorrent attacks and the celebrations in their wake, Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided on steps to strengthen the settlements that will be submitted this week,” a statement from Israel’s political and security cabinet on Saturday night. 

The statement presented a six-point list of measures to “fight terrorism and exact a price from the terrorists and their supporters,” including loosening the rules on the sale of firearms to Israeli citizens and a reinforcement military and police powers.

The list also included a number of punitive measures for Palestinians, including revoking national insurance rights and benefits to “families of terrorists” and proposals to deny identity cards to “families of terrorists who support terrorism.” 

“Our response will be strong, swift and precise,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the opening of the cabinet meeting Saturday. “Whoever tries to hurt us, we will hurt him, and anyone who helps him.” 

In an atmosphere of heightened tensions on Sunday, the Israeli Defense Force said it had fatally shot a Palestinian man carrying a handgun on the outskirts of a West Bank settler community.

Israeli officers on Sunday sealed off the Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian gunman who killed seven people and wounded three, a police spokesperson said Saturday, adding that the gunman’s family members and relatives had also been arrested. The attack took place outside a synagogue on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and drew international condemnation and fears of spiraling violence. 

On Saturday, two people were allegedly injured in a separate gun attack in east Jerusalem by a Palestinian shooter in his early teens. Police said they shot and overpowered the 13-year-old shooter who was taken to hospital on a stretcher. 

The weekend of violence follows an Israeli raid in the West Bank on Thursday that killed at least nine Palestinians, the deadliest Israeli raid on the area in two decades. In response, Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip fired rockets into Israel, which in turn triggered retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. At least 32 Palestinians have been killed in fighting in January so far.

The attacks present a challenge for the recently re-elected Netanyahu, who on Sunday visited those injured in Friday’s attack at two hospitals in Jerusalem.

He has built a government coalition alongside the Jewish Power and Religious Zionism parties, which oppose Palestinian statehood and are aligned with the hard-line West Bank settlement movement. Netanyahu could come under pressure from cabinet members to take even tougher action, at risk of triggering more violence and potentially involving the Hamas militant group in Gaza. 

Minister of national security Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is a member of the far-right Jewish Power party said on Twitter Saturday that he would bring new death penalty laws for terrorist acts before the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, next week.

Israel has seen weeks of democracy protests throughout January as a result of government proposals to weaken the Supreme Court, making it difficult for the body to overturn laws it deems unconstitutional. Netanyahu’s government says judges and legal advisers have too much sway over lawmaking and governance. Critics argue the plan will upend Israel’s system of checks and balances on government power, stripping it of judicial oversight. 

At protests in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Saturday night, demonstrators held a moment of silence for the Jerusalem shooting victims. In Tel Aviv, some carried banners describing Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir as “a threat to world peace.”

“We are here to protect the Israeli democracy in order to protect both the Palestinian and Israeli citizens so there will be less terror attacks like this, because if we won’t have the Supreme Court then we won’t have a democracy then we think these terror attacks will just be more and more,” Anat Shalam told Reuters at a demonstration in Jerusalem. 

The weekend’s events cast a shadow over a diplomatic visit from U.S. secretary of state Anthony Blinken, who is scheduled to speak to Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Monday.

 The Biden administration opposes Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are territories Palestinians want to use to build a future state. 

Leila Sackur reported from London; Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.

Check Also

U.S. aid worker and French journalist freed after being held hostage for years

IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. …