In the wake of the Jerusalem terror attacks, ministers were reportedly set to discuss a number of steps at a Saturday evening meeting of the high-level security cabinet, including expediting the issuing of firearms licenses for civilians and providing further funding for the purchase of guns.
A terrorist killed seven people in an attack near a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood on Friday evening. The shooter, a resident of East Jerusalem, was later killed in a shootout with officers while attempting to flee, according to police.
In a second terror attack on Saturday morning, two men were seriously injured by a 13-year-old shooter near Jerusalem’s Old City. That shooting was brought to an end when two members of the group targeted by the attacker — one of them an Israel Defense Forces officer — returned fire.
A senior political source told the Kan public broadcaster that the cabinet will consider speeding up the permitting process for Israelis who have already applied for gun licenses and insisted ministers were not currently looking to ease the criteria to receive a fireman. However, the report said ministers will examine the current criteria to possess a pistol and look at a number of ways to make it easier to receive a gun license.
Gun control in Israel is relatively strict, and firearm licenses are generally only granted to those who can show a need for extra security in their line of work or daily life.
According to Hebrew-language media reports, ministers will also discuss the promotion of a law to allow the deportation of the families of terrorists.
Netanyahu’s Likud party previously sought to advance such a measure in a previous government he led, though it was opposed by the then-attorney general, who said the expulsions would violate Israeli and international law.
Ministers will reportedly deliberate permitting the immediate sealing of the homes of terror suspects as well as the arrest of their family members and associates. Police said Saturday morning that they had detained 42 relatives and associates of 21-year-old Alqam Khayri, the terrorist who killed seven in the Neve Yaakov attack.
Furthermore, ministers will hold a discussion on sending additional military reinforcements to the West Bank and the issuing of work permits for Palestinians, reports said.
“There will be a quick and powerful response,” a senior political source was quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.
Earlier Saturday, police said they were raising the national terror alert to its highest level and commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered a team of officers from the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit be stationed in Jerusalem following the two attacks.
Senior police officials told Kan they would increase forces across the country, especially in the capital.
In addition to the bolstering of police, IDF chief Herzi Halevi issued instructions to increase forces in the West Bank and along its security barrier, and to prepare for potential escalation in the region.
Police have also said they were concerned about possible “price tag” revenge attacks against Arabs.
An unnamed security source told the Walla news site that the defense establishment was deeply aware of the potential for escalation by Jewish right-wing extremists.
“When the prime minister called yesterday for people not to take the law into their own hands, it was not just based on a feeling,” they said, referring to comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “There is a very great fear that something will happen to set the area on fire. The security establishment is aware of this.”
According to police, Khayri arrived by car at 8:13 p.m. at the synagogue in the East Jerusalem neighborhood on Friday evening and opened fire at people outside the synagogue and other passersby.
Palestinian media said the gunman’s father was among those summoned by police for questioning.
Security officials told the Walla news site that Khayri had shown relatively advanced shooting skills during the attack, and an investigation was underway to examine whether he had received weapons training.
Two of the seven people shot and killed were named Saturday as couple Eli and Natali Mizrahi.
Eli’s father, Shimon, said the pair had gone outside to try and help those who had been shot, when they were killed by the terrorist at point-blank range.
Eli, 48, and 45-year-old Natali had been married for just two years.
“We were in the middle of our meal, and there were several shots and my son jumped up. We yelled at him, ‘Don’t go anywhere,'” Shimon said.
“It seems that he was speaking with the terrorist, who pulled out a gun and killed him. [Eli] and his wife were murdered,” Shimon said. ‘[The terrorist] was standing next to his car and he shot them. He got into the car and ran away.”
The other five victims killed when a terrorist opened fire on Friday evening were not immediately named.
At least three others were wounded — Hadassah’s Mount Scopus Hospital said Saturday morning that a 15-year-old boy injured in the attack was now fully conscious and his condition defined as moderate.
However, a 24-year-old remained sedated on a ventilator. His condition was serious but stable. In addition, a 60-year-old woman was also in moderate condition.
With seven killed, the shooting in Jerusalem was the deadliest terror attack since 2011, when terrorists crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing eight Israelis. It was the deadliest Palestinian terror attack since 2008, when a gunman from East Jerusalem killed eight Israeli students at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in the capital.
Friday’s deadly attack came following days of violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Tensions have increased dramatically since Thursday morning, when an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank against a terrorist cell left nine Palestinians dead — most of them gunmen and members of the cell, though at least one civilian was also killed.
The IDF said Thursday’s operation in the Jenin refugee camp was necessary to foil imminent attack plans by a local Islamic Jihad terror cell. The group had primed explosives and firearms, according to the IDF.
Hamas praised Friday’s attack as a response to Thursday’s IDF operation, but no terror group took responsibility for it.
Thursday overnight saw rocket fire from Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and Israeli retaliatory air strikes.
Tensions were also high in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount on Friday, though Muslim prayers proceeded without issue.
AFP contributed to this report.