Israel’s security cabinet is meeting in the wake of escalating deadly violence in the occupied West Bank and the occupied East Jerusalem, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising “a strong, swift and precise response”.
Netanyahu made the statement as he convened his security cabinet over one of the deadliest attacks carried out by a Palestinian in years in the occupied East Jerusalem, which killed seven people on Friday.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, James Bays, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said that Israel’s Security Cabinet is expected to authorise action in response to the attack.
“There are two main branches of what is likely the Security Cabinet may authorise. The first is concerning the families and friends of those suspected of carrying out recent attacks,” Bays said.
“What they say they are going to do is to seal the homes of those people, and potentially arrest some, then demolish their homes and also revoke their permission to live in Jerusalem.”
Bays added that the second action would be to fast-track the authorisation of gun permits for Israelis. “Israeli police is already encouraging those who already have gun permits to actually start carrying guns on them,” he added.
Israel has decided to deploy thousands of special forces in East and West Jerusalem after the country was placed on “the highest state of alert” after the deadly attack on Friday.
Far-right Israeli Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir has called for more guns in the hands of Israeli citizens and settlers as part of safety measures. Ben-Gvir has been viewed as highly controversial, having already been convicted of racist incitement against Palestinians.
Rise in inter-communal violence
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said arming civilians in Israel will further escalate the violence and deteriorate the security situation in Israel and Palestine.
“The escalation threatens to be worst than ever and it is just incredibly predictable,” he said.
“They are trying to further arm already armed people in Jerusalem, the West Bank, etc,” Bishara said, adding, “More violence and more suffering will only play to the hands of the most extreme of the extremes [groups] in Israel and potentially in Palestine.”
There has also been a rise in inter-communal violence, with Israeli settlers burning cars belonging to Palestinians in Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
The attacks took place towards the end of a month of growing confrontation and following an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, which killed nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman. Israel bombed Gaza after Palestinian fighters had fired rockets into Israel in retaliation to the Jenin raid.
Friday’s attack outside a synagogue near a settlement was the deadliest in the city area since 2008. The gunman, Khaire Alkam, was a 21-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, according to police.
Police said he had tried to flee by car but was chased by officers and shot dead. Forty-two suspects, including members of the gunman’s family, have been arrested, police said.
Khairi Alkam,—the 21-year-old that undertook the shooting attack in Jerusalem killing seven Israelis a day after the Israeli military massacre in Jenin yesterday—is the grandson of Khairi Alkam, whose name he carries. His grandfather was stabbed to death by a settler in 1998.
— Mariam Barghouti مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) January 27, 2023
Alkam’s father told Reuters that his son had no links to any Palestinian armed groups. “He is neither the first nor the last young man to get martyred and what he did is a source of pride,” he said.
He attacked in an area that Israel annexed to Jerusalem after the 1967 war, although the annexation has not been internationally recognised.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made no mention of Friday’s shootings in a statement published by the official Palestinian agency WAFA, and blamed Israel for the escalation in violence.
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which has limited governing powers in the West Bank, suspended security cooperation arrangements with Israel after the deadly Jenin raid.
‘Ready to respond to further Israeli raids’
On Saturday, police said a 13-year-old boy from East Jerusalem opened fire at a group of passers-by, wounding two people, before he was shot and wounded by one of them. His family has denied that he was involved and said he just happened to be in the area.
That incident took place around Silwan, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem that lies below the Old City walls.
The attacks underlined the potential for an escalation in violence after months of near-daily Israeli raids in the West Bank. Nearly 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis this month. Last year, at least 200 Palestinians – fighters and civilians alike – were killed by Israeli forces.
The increasing violence has raised the question – is a third Palestinian uprising inevitable?
Basem Naim of Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera that they were ready to respond to further Israeli raids. He said the group was committed to defending its people and families, as well as Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque.
“We are not planning or initiating any escalation or any violence campaigns. We are also ready, at the same time, to respond [to attacks] as usual,” Naim said.
Naim said Hamas would seek its people’s freedom with all available means, including diplomatic, political and armed means.
World leaders on Saturday condemned the escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, with the White House calling for de-escalation.
The violence has cast a cloud over a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region on Sunday. Blinken is scheduled to meet Palestinian leaders, as well as Israel’s Netanyahu.
It will be the Israeli leader’s first high-level meeting with a US official since returning to power last month as head of the most extreme right-wing government in Israeli history.