PM vows 'strong, fast and accurate' response to shootings

AG denies Ben Gvir’s claim that she prevented sealing of Jerusalem terrorist’s home

Baharav-Miara says she only just received legal opinion on matter, after far-right minister asserted it was sent this morning; security cabinet meets following attacks in capital

Composite photo: Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, left, during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 21, 2022; Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks at Tel Aviv University on September 28, 2022. (Flash90)
Composite photo: Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir, left, during a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 21, 2022; Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks at Tel Aviv University on September 28, 2022. (Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Saturday assailed Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, accusing her of not authorizing security forces to seal the home of the Palestinian terrorist who killed seven Israelis in Jerusalem the night before.

The claim was swiftly denied by Baharav-Miara, who was due to address the issue at a security cabinet meeting convened to discuss the deadly attack in Jerusalem, as well as a second terror shooting in the capital on Saturday that left two seriously wounded.

Speaking at the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Israel will “seal and demolish” the terrorists’ homes “in an accelerated process.”

“The process already began yesterday and is already in progress,” he said, without addressing the spat between Ben Gvir and Baharav-Miara.

Sealing the homes of attackers is often a replacement for demolishing them. In general, the process takes several months. The home needs to be mapped out, the High Court must deny appeals by the family, and security forces often wait for an optimal time to enter Palestinian cities for the operation.

“It is possible to seal the home right away,” Ben Gvir told reporters outside a hospital in Jerusalem after visiting victims of the attack.

He said he sat with Netanyahu throughout the night going over legal precedents that would allow Israel to seal the home immediately.

“The prime minister approved, and we made a decision to immediately seal the home. The chief of staff and police commissioner were also in favor,” Ben Gvir said.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks to reporters at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem on January 28, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The far-right minister asserted that at 8 a.m., a formal request was given to Baharav-Miara to approve forces sealing the East Jerusalem home, but that she has yet to respond.

“It’s not a demolition, it’s just sealing. I was shocked to find that until now, she isn’t allowing [us] to seal the home,” Ben Gvir said.

“In my opinion, it is terrible, it can’t be, this harms Israeli civilians,” he added.

Responding to Ben Gvir, Baharav-Miara disputed his version of events, saying she had received a legal opinion on the matter just an hour earlier and that it was now being assessed.

“As clarified to Minister Ben Gvir… operational decisions by the political leadership must be supported with a factual basis, which it must present,” a statement from her office said.

“The attorney general will do everything possible to provide legal tools that will allow the political leadership to achieve its policy,” the statement added.

Ben Gvir has previously clashed publicly with Baharav-Miara, who has frequently found herself at odds with Netanyahu’s new government since it was sworn in last month, notably over its far-reaching plans to upend the judicial system and the appointment of Shas chief Aryeh Deri as a minister, which was later annulled by the High Court of Justice due to his multiple past criminal convictions.

Despite being disqualified as a minister, Deri attended the cabinet session after Netanyahu invited him to take part as an observer.

In his opening remarks, Netanyahu vowed a decisive response to the attacks.

“Our response will be strong, fast and accurate,” he said. “Whoever tries to hurt us — we will harm them, and anyone who helps them.”

“We are not looking for escalation, but we are prepared for any scenario,” Netanyahu added.

He urged Israelis not to take the law into their own hands.

“I call again to the citizens of Israel: Do not take the law into your hands. We are not in the days of the [Jewish] Underground. We have a sovereign country, with an excellent army, government, and security forces,” Netanyahu said. “Let them do their work.”

The prime minister thanked US President Joe Biden and other world leaders for their messages “standing by Israel at this time.”

Praising the security forces, he said Israel is bolstering deployments. He added that the government will speed up the process by which eligible citizens can acquire gun licenses.

“As we have seen time and again, including this morning [when the 13-year-old shooter near the Old City was neutralized], this saves lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces announced it would deploy three additional battalions to the West Bank.

The military said the decision was made following an assessment top officers held.

Earlier Saturday, police raised the national alert to its highest level.

Friday’s deadly attack came after days of violence in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Tensions have increased dramatically since Thursday morning, when an IDF raid in the West Bank city of Jenin 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.

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.

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