Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a series of punitive steps against Palestinians in response to a pair of shootings in Jerusalem that killed seven Israelis and badly wounded five others.
The steps, announced late on Saturday, include new moves to “strengthen” Jewish settlements, the Israeli prime minister’s office said.
The decision came ahead of a visit by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The Biden administration opposes Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – territories claimed by the Palestinians for a future state.
Netanyahu’s security cabinet approved the measures after two shootings – including an attack outside an East Jerusalem synagogue on Friday night in which seven people were killed.
His office said the security cabinet agreed to seal off the attacker’s home in preparation for its demolition.
It also plans to cancel social security and health benefits for the families of attackers, make it easier for Israelis to obtain weapons and step up efforts to collect illegal weapons.
Before the meeting of the security cabinet, Netanyahu vowed to take forceful and timely measures after the two attacks. “Our response will be strong, swift and accurate,” he said. “We’re not seeking an escalation but are prepared for any scenario.”
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 into Israel, triggering a series of Israeli airstrikes in response. In all, 32 Palestinians have been killed in fighting this month.
It remains unclear whether the Israeli steps will be effective. The attackers in the weekend shootings, including a 13-year-old boy, both appear to have acted alone and were not part of organised militant groups.
In addition, Netanyahu could come under pressure from members of his government, a collection of religious and ultranationalist politicians, to take even tougher action. Such steps could risk triggering more violence and potentially drag in the Hamas militant group in Gaza.
Friday’s shooting outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem 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 published the names of four of the victims. They included 14-year-old Asher Natan; Eli Mizrahi, 48, and his wife, Natali, 45; and Rafael Ben Eliyahu, 56. Funerals for some victims were scheduled for Saturday night.
On Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy opened fire elsewhere in East Jerusalem, wounding an Israeli man and his son, ages 47 and 23, paramedics said. Both were fully conscious and in moderate to serious condition in the hospital, the medics added.
As police rushed to the scene, two passers-by with licensed weapons shot and overpowered the 13-year-old attacker, police said. Police confiscated his handgun and took the wounded teen to a hospital.
Blinken is expected to arrive in Israel on Monday. The Biden administration condemned Friday night’s shooting and has called for calm on all sides, but given few details on how it expects to promote these goals.