JERUSALEM — In line with proposals from Netanyahu’s extreme-right political partners which enabled him to return to power at the end of last month, Israel’s cabinet announced a slew of steps including measures to make it easier for Israeli civilians to obtain permits to carry firearms and rescind the rights to social security of “families of terrorists that support terrorism”.
Also, the family home of a Palestinian in east Jerusalem, suspected of killing seven people near a synagogue, was sealed on Sunday as part of the measures to revoke certain rights of the families of suspects. While Khayri Alqam, 21, was shot dead by police following the shooting, his family home was sealed “ahead of its demolition”.
Israel’s cabinet said it would discuss a bill to revoke identity cards of the relatives of ‘attackers’. The measures are likely to apply primarily to Palestinians with Israeli nationality, known as Arab-Israelis, and Palestinians with east Jerusalem residency permits.
The cabinet also decided to make it easier to obtain permits to carry firearms. “When civilians have guns, they can defend themselves,” extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir told reporters outside a Jerusalem hospital.
Israeli forces have been placed on high alert and the army has announced that it will be reinforcing troop numbers in the West Bank, while calls for restraint have multiplied from abroad.
Eyewitnesses saw Israeli forces on the terrace of the family home of the suspect after they sealed its entrances, with Palestinians clearing out their belongings. Israel demolishes the homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis, though the process necessitates that prior notice be given to families and the chance to appeal the decision.
Dani Shenhar, head of the legal department at Israeli rights group HaMoked, said sealing the home overnight demonstrated the government’s “will of revenge against the families”.
The measure was “done in complete disregard for the rule of law”, he said, and HaMoked intends to protest to the attorney general.
Pope condemns ‘death spiral’
Pope Francis has condemned a resurgence of violence in the Middle East, calling on both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to engage in a “sincere search for peace.”
“The death spiral that increases day by day only closes the few glimmers of trust that exist between the two peoples,” said the pope following his traditional Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square.
Francis, 86, cited 10 Palestinians, including a woman, killed in an Israeli army raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank, and the attack on Friday outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem.
“Since the beginning of the year, dozens of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with the Israeli army,” said the pope.
“I appeal to the two governments and the international community to find other ways without delay, including dialogue and the sincere search for peace.
“It is with great sorrow that I learn of the news coming from the holy land,” he said.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories last year, the majority in the West Bank.
The Jerusalem attacks came after nine Palestinians were killed on Thursday in the deadliest raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank in nearly two decades.
Israel said the raid targeted Islamic Jihad operatives, whose militants along with Hamas later fired several rockets from Gaza towards Israel.
Most of them were intercepted by Israel, before the military responded with strikes on Hamas targets inside the Palestinian enclave.
The surge in violence has sparked fears of further reprisals.
A Palestinian home and vehicle in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya were torched on Saturday, in an attack residents blamed on Israeli settlers.
Friday’s synagogue attack sparked outrage in Europe and the United States and condemnation from several Arab governments that have ties with Israel, including Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmud Abbas, held Israel responsible for the dangerous escalation.
Protests against Netanyahu
Netanyahu’s domestic critics continued their protests on Saturday, with thousands turning out in Tel Aviv to oppose his controversial judicial reform plan that aims to give politicians more control over the supreme court.
Demonstrators observed a minute of silence for those killed on Friday. — AFP