image Photo: IDF, Flash90

Israel vows strong response to terror

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has imposed as series of new measures aimed at countering Arab attacks on Israeli civilians.

By Erin Viner

“While we are not seeking escalation, we are prepared for any possibility. Our answer to terrorism is an iron fist and a powerful, swift and precise response.”  Netanyahu said as he convened his security cabinet.

Seven civilians were killed by an Arab gunman Friday night in Jerusalem, while two others in the city were severely injured in another shooting attack the following day.

At the start of an emergency Security Cabinet meeting Saturday night, Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his “deepest condolences to the families of those who were murdered in this awful and despicable terrorist attack in our capital Jerusalem. This was a reprehensible attack at the entrance to a synagogue on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”

He went on to thank United States President Joe Biden who he said “expressed outrage and condolences over this terrible murderous attack” during a call, as well as “many other leaders, including from Arab countries, for standing alongside Israel at this time. We are all praying for the wellbeing of those who were wounded in the two attacks.”

The Israeli leader went on to commend the “police officers and security force personnel for their determined and swift action, and also the resourcefulness and heroism shown by ordinary civilians who took action against the terrorists and thereby saved lives. Our response will be strong, swift and precise. Whoever tries to harm us – we will harm them and everyone who assists them.”

Among new measures implemented to counter terror, the Israeli leader announced that demolition of terrorists’ homes will be expedited “in order to exact an additional price from those who support terrorism. This process already began yesterday and is continuing.”

According to a statement by the Security Cabinet, additional steps in the fight against terrorism include the revocation of national insurance rights and additional benefits for the families of terrorists that support terrorism, the expedition of tight firearm licensing to citizens, and the reinforcement of military and police units, expanded arrests and focused operations to collect illegal weapons. Later steps under discussion, said the statement, include the introduction of legislation to rescind Israeli identity cards of terrorists’ families, and the strengthening of Jewish communities in the West Bank districts of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.

Following yesterday’s weekly Cabinet session, the Premier said further directives have been issued to the  Israel Security Agency (ISA, Shin Bet) to “submit an immediate opinion on carrying out additional deterrent measures regarding the families of terrorists that express support for terrorism.,” presentation by the Acting Interior Minister and the Attorney General of draft legislation to revoke residency and citizenship of terrorists and removing them to the territory of the Palestinian Authority, and preparation of a draft memorandum by the Labor Minister and the Attorney General on new laws to permit the immediate dismissal of workers who have supported terrorism, without need for hearings.

Later elaborating that the expansion and expedition of weapons licensing will include first responders, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed out that only a small percentage of the 3,000 mobile volunteers for the ZAKA emergency service nationwide possess firearms to end ongoing attacks. “Imagine if they and others were armed. Of course, this would significantly increase the response capability because as we have seen, time and again, including yesterday in the City of David, that heroic, armed and trained civilians save lives.”

He added, “the terrorists seek to slaughter us indiscriminately; therefore, we must all unite as one in the relentless fight against them. We will defeat them.”

Following a situation assessment at a classified security location, together with the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Head of the ISA, and additional security officials, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated, “while we will not hesitate to act against terrorism, we wish to regain calm and stability on the ground.”

Adding that he and IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi  agreed on the need to reinforce and support efforts by the Israel police, General Gallant said he has “instructed Israel’s defense establishment to increase defensive activities, particularly in the Jerusalem area, and to increase pre-emptive operations against anyone planning attacks on our citizens.”

The top defense official said he has also instructed “our professional echelon and legal teams to assess a series of possible sanctions against terrorists and their families,” while vowing, “We will not allow a situation in which an individual who receives the benefits awarded by the State of Israel, goes on to murder Israeli citizens, and then continues to remain a resident of the State.”