Photo: Flash90

Israel on edge amid deadly terror wave

Israeli forces have been on high alert following attacks by three members of the country’s Arab minority and two Palestinians from the West Bank that have killed 14 people in Israel since late March.

By Erin Viner

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs (also known as the Security Cabinet) yesterday.

According to a statement TV7 obtained from the Premier’s office, the “operational situation in the various sectors following the recent terrorist attacks was presented, as were all aspects of the efforts being made by the security bodies.”

During the discussion, the Cabinet Ministers unanimously approved the ₪ 360 million-shekel (about $11.7m or €102.4m) plan submitted by Defense Minister Benny Gantz to build an additional 40 kilometers (nearly 25 miles) of the “seam line barrier” with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

A statement from the Ministry of Defense Spokesperson specified that reinforcement of the security barrier begin as soon as possible, stretching from the Salem area in northern Samaria to the Bat Hefer region. It will be constructed of concrete, protective equipment, and additional technological components, reaching up to 9 meters (almost 10 yards) high.

In related developments, a proposal by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen was approved during the weekly Israeli Cabinet session, to investigate legal grounds to revoke state benefits from terrorists or their families.

A team to formulate policy on the matter will be composed within 60 days, consisting of the Director Generals of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Alternate Prime Minister’s Office, the Public Security Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry and the National Insurance Institute, as well as representatives of the Defense Ministry, the Intelligence Ministry, the Attorney General’s Office and the National Security Council.

The forum will present recommendations o the Cabinet on the relevant issues including necessary legislative changes to withdraw eligibility for state pensions, support payments and the other benefits from state bodies, of the families of terrorists who are residents and citizens of Israel and who carried out security offenses and acts of terrorism.

“We are determined to correct and deal with everything that has been neglected for years and to change the equation so that it will not be worthwhile to take part in terrorist activity against the citizens of Israel. As part of our effort, we will settle accounts with terrorists and with the circles that surround them. Giving state support payments to terrorist families is a complete absurdity and the time has come to correct this injustice. The Government of Israel will continue to fight terrorism with all of the tools at its disposal; there are no restrictions on this issue. The State of Israel will settle accounts with all those who are linked – directly or indirectly – to terrorist attacks,” stated Prime Minister Bennett.

Foreign Minister Lapid underscored that, “Terrorists and their families need to know that there is a price to attacking innocents. It is untenable that the State will continue to pay support payments to the families of terrorists that could have prevented attacks and loss of life.”

Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Cohen added, “This reality, in which citizens and residents of Israel turn against the other residents of the State requires an evaluation of the means at the disposal of the various arms of the state, vis-à-vis both deterrence and punitive measures. We cannot sit idly by in the face of this wave of terrorism and the unacceptable reality in which citizens of Israel take up arms and go on murder sprees. We will fight with determination and all the tools at our disposal in the fight against terrorism.”

In other developments, two Palestinian women were shot and killed during separate incidents in the West Bank yesterday. One knife-wielding woman was neutralized after she stabbed and lightly wounded an Israeli Border Police officer in Hebron outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs, said Israeli security officials, while the other refused orders to halt and ignored warning fire to stop while running toward IDF troops in the PA city of Bethlehem.

In the fifth such murderous act in less than two weeks that have killed 14 people dead and shaken the country, a terrorist opened fire with a pistol in every direction at a popular Tel Aviv bar on 7 April.

The latest attack came during the first week of  Muslim observance of the Ramadan holy month. There have been near-nightly confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli police at the flashpoint Damascus Gate entrance into Jerusalem’s Old City, heightening concerns over a repeat of violence that erupted last year.  Rampant violence in the capital in 2021 prompted full scale fighting with Gaza when Palestinian terror groups based in the territory fired more than 4,000 rockets at the Jewish State during the ensuing 11-day  Operation Guardian of the Walls last May.

The recent series of attacks mark the the deadliest outbreak of terrorist violence in Israel since 2006.

A Bedouin Arab murdered four people in a stabbing and car ramming attack in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on 22 March, followed by the deadly shooting of two victims by two Arab gunmen in the central city of Hadera on 27 March. Israeli authorities said all of the assailants, who were killed during their deadly attacks, were loyal to Islamic State terror group.

Five other people were shot to death in Bnei Brak on 29 March in an attack that was not claimed by any armed group, though residents of the West Bank village of Ya’bad linked the assailant to the Fatah party lead by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.