Israel takes measures against families of Palestinian attackers


Israel sealed the family home Sunday of a Palestinian in east Jerusalem who killed seven people near a synagogue, as part of measures to revoke certain rights of attackers' relatives.

The security cabinet announced a slew of steps late Saturday, including revoking the rights to social security of "the families of terrorists that support terrorism." 

It also announced that the home of 21-year-old Khayri Alqam, who was shot dead by police following Friday's attack, "will be sealed immediately ahead of its demolition."

An AFP correspondent saw Israeli forces Sunday on the terrace of the building after they sealed its entrances, with Palestinians clearing out their belongings.

Israel already demolishes the homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis, although the process necessitates that prior notice be given to families and the chance to appeal the decision.

Dani Shenhar, head of the legal department at Israeli rights group HaMoked, said sealing the home overnight demonstrated the government's "will of revenge against the families".

The measure was "done in complete disregard for the rule of law", he said, and HaMoked intends to protest to the attorney general.

- More guns for civilians -

Israel's security cabinet said there will also be a discussion Sunday over a bill to revoke Israeli identity cards from the relatives of attackers. 

The measures announced are in line with proposals from Netanyahu's extreme-right political partners which enabled him to return to power at the end of December.

They are likely to apply primarily to Palestinians with Israeli nationality, known as Arab-Israelis, and Palestinians with east Jerusalem residency permits.

Hours after the deadly shooting outside the synagogue in the settlement of Neve Yaacov, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot and wounded two Israelis just outside the walled Old City of east Jerusalem.

The boy blamed for the attack in the Silwan neighbourhood was shot and wounded at the scene.

No group has claimed responsibility for either of the shootings.

The security cabinet also decided to make it easier to obtain permits to carry firearms.

"When civilians have guns, they can defend themselves," extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir told reporters outside a Jerusalem hospital on Saturday.

Israeli forces have been placed on high alert, and the army has announced that it will be reinforcing troop numbers in the West Bank, while calls for restraint have multiplied from abroad.

- Deadly raid -

The Jerusalem attacks came after nine Palestinians were killed in the deadliest raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank in nearly two decades.

Israel said the Thursday raid targeted Islamic Jihad operatives, whose militants along with Hamas later fired several rockets from Gaza towards Israel. 

Most of them were intercepted by Israeli defence systems, before the military responded with strikes on Hamas targets inside the Palestinian enclave.

There were no casualties reported on either side, but Gaza's armed groups vowed further action.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday to discuss steps for de-escalation.

The surge in violence has sparked fears of further reprisals. 

A Palestinian home and vehicle in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya were torched overnight, in an attack residents blamed on Israeli settlers.

Israeli forces did not immediately comment on the arson when contacted by AFP.

Netanyahu, who returned to power in December, has for decades branded himself as the leader best suited to keep Israel safe and will be tested by the deadliest spate of violence targeting Israelis in years.

Friday's attack near a synagogue sparked outrage in Europe and the United States and condemnation from several Arab governments that have ties with Israel -- including Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. 

But the Palestinian Authority led by president Mahmud Abbas instead insisted that Israel was "fully responsible for the dangerous escalation."

Abbas and Netanyahu are due to meet separately with Blinken next week, talks that have taken on renewed urgency amid the widening bloodshed.

It will be Netanyahu's first high-level U.S. meeting since returning to office as the head of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.

Netanyahu's domestic critics continued their protests on Saturday, with thousands turning out in Tel Aviv to oppose his controversial judicial reform plan that aims to give politicians more control over the supreme court. 

Demonstrators observed a minute of silence for those killed on Friday.

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