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Israel: Netanyahu vows to arm 'thousands' and punish relatives of Palestinian attackers

The Palestinian Authority condemned the measures as an act of 'racist collective punishment that incites further escalation and violence'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting on 29 January 2023 (AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday to "strengthen" Israeli settlements and arm thousands of Israelis after a series of attacks by Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories. 

The Israeli security cabinet on Sunday approved a series of controversial measures Netanyahu proposed a day earlier in the wake of two separate attacks against Israelis since Friday.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli forces sealed the home of Khairy Alqam, a Palestinian who killed seven Israelis outside a building used as a synagogue in the settlement of Neve Yaakov in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday.

Israeli forces are expected to demolish the Alqam family home. Witnesses saw Israeli forces on the property after they blocked its entrances, with Palestinians clearing out their belongings. Security forces have detained 42 members of Alqam's family since the incident. 

Israel routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis.

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The attacks on Israelis come after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin, and a tenth succumbed to his wound on Sunday. Another Palestinian was killed by an Israeli settler in the West Bank on Sunday, bringing the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israelis this year to 32. 

The violence has been condoned by the new far-right Israeli government of Netanyahu, with incitement from his ultranationalist cabinet ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

At least 220 people died in Israeli attacks across the occupied territories in 2022, including 48 children. Of the total death toll, 167 were from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and 53 were from the Gaza Strip.

Enabling 'thousands' to carry arms

Despite asking the public to let security forces carry out their investigations, Netanyahu said he would "enable thousands of additional citizens to carry weapons".

The new proposals have sparked concerns that Netanyahu's pronouncement will fuel the growing fire of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. 

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Israel's security cabinet also approved a series of measures, including plans to revoke Israeli identity cards of "families of terrorists that support terrorists", bolstering military and police units and confiscating weapons from Palestinians. 

The Palestinian Authority condemned the measures and described them as an act of "racist collective punishment that incite further escalation and violence".

Netanyahu has also faced mounting criticism from Israelis, with thousands rallying in Tel Aviv on Saturday night against his judicial reforms that aim to give politicians more control over the Supreme Court. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet Netanyahu on Monday.

"With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to de-escalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives," a State Department spokesman said.

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