Far-right ministers demand more settlements, checkpoints, after deadly terror attack

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir doubles down on intention to seek restrictions on Muslim access to prayers at the Temple Mount on Ramadan

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of a deadly terror attack on Route 1 near Ma'ale Adumim, in the West Bank, February 22, 2024 (Jamal Awad/Flash90).
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of a deadly terror attack on Route 1 near Ma'ale Adumim, in the West Bank, February 22, 2024 (Jamal Awad/Flash90).

Far-right ministers reacted to a deadly West Bank terror attack on Thursday, in which an Israeli man was killed and 11 others were wounded, with calls to impose increased restrictions on the Palestinians and to step up settlement construction.

The attack was carried out by three Palestinian gunmen near a checkpoint on Route 1 between the West Bank settlement city of Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem at about 7:30 a.m., police and medics said.

Speaking at the scene of the attack, National Security Minister Iramar Ben Gvir  said the shooting was further proof of the need to arm the Israeli population and limit freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank.

“An extremely large disaster was avoided here, thanks to the police and the armed citizens,” said Ben Gvir, leader of the Otzma Yehudit party. “We’re distributing more and more guns. I think that today everyone understands that guns save lives.”

“Six months ago I said that the right to life is more important than the right to free movement for residents of the Palestinian Authority,” he continued. “The right to life for Jewish residents in the West Bank is more important than the freedom of movement for residents of the Palestinian Authority.”

“I expect that there will be more and more checkpoints, that there will be restrictions. Our enemies do not look for excuses, our enemies just want to harm us,” he added.

He also indicated that he would be seeking restrictions on access to prayers at the Al-Aqsa compound atop the Temple Mount for Muslims on Ramadan. And he said, in an aside, there is no such thing as the Palestinian people.

File: A member of the Israeli security forces directs Palestinians at an Israeli checkpoint in Bethlehem in the West Bank on April 14, 2023, waiting to be allowed to cross to attend prayers during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan at al-Asqa mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Hard-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich demanded approval of a plan for thousands of new housing units in Ma’ale Adumim and nearby settlements in response to the deadly shooting on Route 1.

“The serious attack on Ma’ale Adumim must have a decisive security response but also an answer from the settlements,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“I demand the prime minister approve the convening of the Higher Planning Council and immediately approve plans for thousands of housing units in Ma’ale Adumim and the entire region,” he continued, referring to the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing West Bank construction.

“Our enemies know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our control across the entire country,” said Smotrich, who heads the Religious Zionism party

Settlements Minister Orit Strock, from the same party, wrote on X that the terrorists took “advantage of the reckless and unjust ‘freedom of movement’ which also allows terrorists… to travel alongside us on our arterial roads (while they have alternative roads)” — a reference to the use of West Bank roads by both Israelis and Palestinians.

She said the greater number of cars on the shared roads “creates traffic congestion and traffic jams that generate victims for terrorist attacks. It’s time to fix this; our blood is no less red.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid sent his condolences to the families affected by the attack, as did Yisrael Beytenu party head Avigdor Liberman, who added that “we must not continue to submit to murderous terrorism.”

Police at the scene of a terror shooting attack on Route 1 near Ma’ale Adumim, in the West Bank, February 22, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Hamas terror group issued a statement praising the terror attack and called the deadly shooting “a natural response” to the war in Gaza, Arabic-language media outlets reported

“The heroic operation is a natural response to the Occupation’s massacres and crimes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank,” Hamas said, referring to Israel.

The statement also referred to the upcoming month of Ramadan and Israel’s efforts to minimize the security risks during the holiday, saying that “the Occupation’s invasion of Jerusalem and its plans to prevent worshipers from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan will not bring it security.”

The war in Gaza began when some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists rampaged across communities in southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostages. They still hold some 130 captives, around a fourth of whom are believed to be dead.

Israel launched a ground offensive aimed at rescuing the hostages and destroying Hamas.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that more than 29,000 people have been killed. The figures provided by the health ministry cannot be independently verified and include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 12,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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