Israel plans harsh security measures following deadly attacks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also said his government will strengthen Israeli settlements

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. EPA
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to implement harsh security measures in response to mounting violence in Palestine and Israel.

The move comes in the aftermath of a Palestinian car ramming attack in Jerusalem on Friday that killed two young children and an adult.

During a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said “the appropriate answer to terrorism is to strike it hard — and deepen our roots in our country even more,” an allusion to accompanying plans to advance Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

Far-right ministers in the new government have been calling for a harsh response for days. Shortly after Friday's attack, hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called for a major operation in response.

On Saturday, he posted a tweet reiterating his initial demands: “To the attention of those giving briefings against me, the police have the authority to demolish illegal buildings, to arrest over 150 targets and raid their homes, to stop the incitement at the mosques, to arrest those with tax debts and more.”

Israeli forces have launched a number of deadly attacks in Palestinian areas, bringing the rate of deaths to highs not seen in years.

They have also responded with controversial measures, including sealing and demolishing the family homes of terrorists. This week, the Knesset, the country's parliament, will debate legislation that would legalise the expulsion of terrorists and their families who hold Israeli citizenship or residency.

There is growing concern in Israel and the international community that violence could be escalating uncontrollably.

On Sunday, dozens of leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries gathered in Cairo to condemn Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Last week, CIA Director William Burns warned that Israel appears to be on the cusp of a third intifada, a term used to describe previous Palestinian uprisings. The last two resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000 Palestinians and about 1,400 Israelis.

Security issues were a major topic in last year's elections and a key driver of the far-right vote.

Mounting pressure to fix the security situation comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces weeks-long mass protests and labour strikes set to take place on Monday over his government's planned judicial reforms.

In a sign that contentious issues are combining to expose a deep rift in Israeli politics, Tally Gotliv, a member of parliament and ally of Mr Netanyahu, blamed Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut for Friday's ramming attack. In the same tweet, Ms Gotliv also wrote: “I blame [Ms Hayut] for the feeling of chaos in the Israeli nation. I accuse her of destruction and serious harm to democracy and the rule of law.”

Anger among far-right politicians is also exposing a rift in the government. Earlier in February, Mr Ben-Gvir threatened to step down in a matter of months if the government did not change its “lenient” policies towards terror and other issues.

Updated: February 12, 2023, 3:05 PM