Israel to strengthen West Bank settlements and loosen civilian gun laws
Israel’s new hardline government said it would make it easier for civilians to bear arms and fortify settlements in the occupied West Bank after two shellings hit Jerusalem in less than 24 hours.
Seven Israelis were killed and three injured in the first shooting, which was the city’s deadliest attack since 2008, and took place outside a synagogue in a Jewish settlement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Two more were injured in a second attack near the Old City on Saturday.
Israel’s security cabinet said that in response to the attacks, Israel would expand and accelerate the licensing of firearms, which it said would “enable thousands of additional citizens to carry guns.”
He added that he would also take “settlement steps” in the West Bank, which makes up most of the Palestinian territories but has been occupied by Israel since 1967 following “celebration” by some Palestinians after the shooting. .
“While we do not seek escalation, we are ready for any opportunity,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of a cabinet meeting on Sunday. “Our response to terrorism is an iron fist and a powerful, fast and accurate response.”
An upsurge in violence following the deadliest Israeli raid in the West Bank in two decades and a shootout between Israel and militants in Gaza has heightened fears that long-standing Israeli-Palestinian tensions could escalate into a wider conflict.
It also represents an early test for the new Netanyahu government, which is dominated by far-right and ultra-religious politicians and came to power last month promising to take a hard line on the Palestinians.
On Sunday morning, police sealed off the home of the shooter behind the first attack, a 21-year-old East Jerusalem Palestinian who was killed by police at the scene as a prelude to his demolition. The attacker in the second shooting, a 13-year-old Palestinian from East Jerusalem, was wounded and hospitalized.
During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu instructed officials to develop a law to “revoke the residence permit and citizenship of terrorists and expel them to the territory of the Palestinian Authority.”
He also asked for a “draft memorandum” for legislation that would allow for the “immediate dismissal of workers who support terrorism without the need for a hearing”.
The security cabinet did not provide further details on the steps to fortify the settlements, which it said would be unveiled this week. The military said on Saturday they had already deployed an additional battalion to the West Bank.
Much of the international community considers the settlements illegal. However, important positions in the new Israeli government are held by ultra-nationalists and settlers such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who are committed to expanding settlements.
On Saturday evening, the security cabinet approved a number of other measures, including revoking national insurance eligibility for “families of terrorists who support terrorism,” beefing up military and police forces, and expanding operations to collect illegal weapons.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the plans as “racist collective punishment, inciting further escalation and violence.”
The latest cycle of violence erupted after Israeli commandos killed nine Palestinians in a raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank on Thursday that targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters. Israeli forces have killed more than 30 Palestinians this year, including militants and civilians.
In response to the raid, the Palestinian Authority canceled security coordination with Israel. The US called on the PA to reverse the decision. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is scheduled to visit Israel and the West Bank this week as part of a pre-planned trip to the region.