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Israel to arm citizens, strip terrorist's family members of benefits

After two terror attacks in Jerusalem this weekend, government advances measures to combat terrorism

Israeli Cabinet meeting, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023. (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

Following a Shabbat that saw two terror attacks – including the deadliest one in a decade – plus several more attempted attacks around the country, Israel’s Security Cabinet voted on a series of measures to combat terrorism and make life harder on relatives of terrorists who hold Israeli residency.

“While we are not seeking escalation, we are prepared for any possibility. Our answer to terrorism is an iron fist and a powerful, swift and precise response,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Several new, stringent measures were announced Saturday night after an emergency Security Cabinet meeting was convened, as tensions escalate and security is tightened around the country.

Two terror attacks – a Friday night attack which left seven people dead and another on Saturday morning resulting in two Israelis wounded – followed a tense week in which an Israeli military raid in the West Bank resulted in nine Palestinian deaths on Thursday and rockets fired from Gaza at Israel.

While both Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir showed up at Friday's attack, opposition member Mickey Levy arrived at the scene on Saturday. Levi served as commander of the Jerusalem police district during the height of the intifada from 2000 to 2004, a time when dozens of terror attacks plagued the city, resulting in almost 200 deaths.

"What happened 20 years ago is starting to happen right now. We need to think how we can stop this situation" before it escalates, Levy said.

Asked by a reporter what he would tell the new government after it ran on a campaign of strong security and created a new position of national security minister, Levy said, "Promise us? Give us our security."

Cabinet members voted to seal and quickly demolish the home of Friday’s terrorist who opened fire on worshippers exiting a synagogue in Jerusalem. The assailant was shot dead after he aimed his rifle at police officers who responded to the scene. Alqam Khayri was from Jerusalem which makes him eligible for social security and insurance benefits.

The Security Cabinet decided to advance legislation to also revoke Khayri’s family’s Israeli identity cards which enable them to live and work in Israel. Some of these steps require legislative approval in the Knesset.

Ben Gvir will also propose a law calling for the death penalty for terrorists.

“I hope it will pass with a big majority,” he said.

In addition, permits for firearms will be expedited for Israeli citizens so that “thousands of civilians” will be able to bear arms in the hopes of preventing such attacks, Netanyahu said.

The Cabinet also voted to strengthen the Israeli settlements, according to a statement. The details of that legislation will be submitted this week.

Netanyahu repeatedly urged Israelis to not take the law into their own hands by implementing revenge attacks.

“We are not in the days of the [Jewish] Underground. We have a sovereign country, with an excellent army, government and security forces,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night. “Let them do their work.”

The assailant from Saturday’s attack was a 13-year-old boy who ambushed Jews walking through the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, just outside the City of David. The boy was shot and wounded by an armed passerby who is credited by police for preventing greater bloodshed.

Netanyahu said emergency responders should also be armed.

“Imagine if they and others were armed. Of course, this would significantly increase the response capability because, as we have seen time and again, including yesterday in the City of David, that heroic, armed and trained civilians save lives,” he said.

“The terrorists seek to slaughter us indiscriminately; therefore, we must all unite as one in the relentless fight against them. We will defeat them," said Netanyahu.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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