Israel punishes attacker’s family as violence rages
Issued on: 28/01/2023 – 10:42Modified: 29/01/2023 – 19:18
Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli forces Sunday prepared for the demolition of the east Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian man who killed seven people near a synagogue, as part of measures to punish the relatives of attackers.
The step comes as violence rages in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which also saw dozens of Palestinians killed this month, sparking global alarm.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due in Jerusalem on Monday to discuss steps for de-escalation, while Pope Francis on Sunday decried the “death spiral” and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged “maximum responsibility” in calls with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.
In the wake of two shooting attacks targeting Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet moved to punish “the families of terrorists that support terrorism”.
The government is planning to rescind the rights to social security benefits of attackers’ relatives and has also considering easing access to guns for Israeli civilians.
In the first concrete move, Netanyahu’s cabinet said the east Jerusalem home of Khayri Alqam, 21 — who was shot dead by police following Friday’s attack — “will be sealed immediately ahead of its demolition”.
An AFP correspondent saw Israeli forces on the property after they shuttered its entrances, with Palestinians clearing out their belongings.
Alqam’s mother was one of five people who remained in custody Sunday, police said, out of 42 suspects arrested after the shooting in the settlement of Neve Yaakov.
Although Israel already routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis, the process requires prior notice to families and allows for an appeals process.
Dani Shenhar, a legal expert at Israeli rights group HaMoked, said sealing off Alqam’s home overnight demonstrated the government’s desire for “revenge against the families”.
The measure was carried out “in complete disregard for the rule of law”, he charged, adding that HaMoked would launch a protest with Israel’s attorney general.
The government went one step further on Sunday, announcing that the home of a 13-year-old boy who shot two Israelis would also be sealed off “even though his attack caused severe injury to its victims and not their deaths”.
The boy was shot and detained after the attack in Silwan neighbourhood just outside east Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
The punitive measures announced are in line with proposals from Netanyahu’s extreme-right political partners, whose support enabled him to return to power in late December.
They are likely to apply primarily to Palestinians with Israeli nationality, known as Arab Israelis, and Palestinians with residency permits for annexed east Jerusalem.
Revoking Israeli identity cards of the relatives of attackers was on the agenda Sunday at Netanyahu’s weekly cabinet meeting.
The government also plans to make it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain permits to carry firearms.
“When civilians have guns, they can defend themselves,” extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said Saturday outside a Jerusalem hospital.
The Jerusalem attacks came after the deadliest raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank in nearly two decades killed 10 Palestinians.
Israel said Thursday’s raid in Jenin targeted operatives from Islamic Jihad, which along with Hamas later fired several rockets from Gaza, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes on Hamas sites. No casualties were reported.
Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 34 Palestinian adults and children — including attackers, militants and civilians.
Friday’s shooting was the first fatal attack targeting Israelis this year and killed six Israeli civilians, including a child, and one Ukrainian citizen.
Speaking at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis said “the death spiral that increases day by day only closes the few glimmers of trust that exist between the two peoples”.
The bloodshed is expected to top the agenda when Blinken meets Netanyahu, before travelling to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The surge in violence has been followed by a wave of arson and vandalism.
A Palestinian home and vehicle in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya were torched overnight. An Israeli security official told AFP Israeli extremists were the suspected perpetrators.
Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said 120 cars were hit by stones, allegedly thrown by settlers, and 22 shops attacked in the Nablus area Saturday night.
Outside the nearby Israeli settlement of Kedumim, guards killed a Palestinian who the army alleged had a handgun.
The Palestinian health ministry identified him on Sunday as 18-year-old Karam Ali Ahmad Salman.
© 2023 AFP