We’ll act to stop prisoner releases, Bennett says

Minister promises severe punishment for slain soldier’s killer; IDF boosts presence in Hebron as manhunt for gunman continues

Economy Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).
Economy Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90).

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Sgt. Gal Gabriel Kobi, 20, Monday afternoon at the Haifa Military Cemetery. Mourners included his comrades from the Givati Brigade. Kobi hailed from the Western Galilee town of Tirat Hacarmel.

Economics Minister Naftali Bennett told the mourners  that Israel must “stop giving the enemy the impression that Jewish blood is the cheapest commodity in the Middle East.”

“We will fight to get rid of the impression that killers can suddenly be released one day. Gal’s killers will be punished severely and I promise that we will act to so that they will never be released,” he said.

The hunt continued Monday afternoon for the killer of the soldier who was fatally wounded in the neck by sniper fire in the West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday. As the search narrowed to the neighborhood of Jabal Johar, security forces lifted the curfew that was imposed over the city .

Gal Gabriel Kobi (photo credit: Facebook)
Gal Gabriel Kobi (photo credit: Facebook)

The manhunt in Hebron has been ongoing since the shooting, which occurred during a Palestinian demonstration near Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs. He died later that night in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

On Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the immediate resettlement of Beit Hamachpela, a disputed house, located near the spot where Kobi was shot, whose Jewish occupants were evicted in March 2012 with the government citing security and political concerns.

“Those who try to uproot us from Hebron, the city of our forefathers, will only achieve the opposite,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “We will continue to fight terrorism with one hand, and strengthen settlement with the other.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will convene a meeting late Monday afternoon to look into the legal ramifications of resettling the building in the coming weeks, Army Radio reported. Last night, before Netanyahu’s order to return to the structure, the Prime Minister’s Office was already looking into how to proceed with the settlement initiative while remaining within the boundaries of Israeli law.

Tomer Hazan (photo credit: via Facebook)
Tomer Hazan (photo credit: via Facebook)

Kobi’s killing marked the second death of a serviceman at the hands of Palestinian attackers in three days. On Friday, Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, was lured to a village near Qalqilya in the West Bank by 42-year-old Nidal Amar, who allegedly kidnapped and killed him in the hope of trading the corpse for his brother’s release from Israeli prison.

Two suspects were reportedly arrested in Hebron overnight and two hunting rifles were confiscated in the course of the IDF’s operations in the city, although the army did not say whether they were suspected in Kobi’s shooting.

Ya’alon expressed his condolences to Kobi’s family and vowed to apprehend the perpetrators.

“The IDF and security services will lay their hands on the terrorist and those who sent him and they will pay the price,” Ya’alon said on Monday morning. “The State of Israel will not tolerate attempts by terror organizations or individual terrorists to attack its citizens or soldiers and disrupt routine life, and will act firmly and strongly against such attempts.”

The two killings came amid US-led peace efforts that resumed in July after a nearly three-year break in negotiations.

The IDF said it does not believe the attacks signify a change in the generally peaceful situation in the West Bank, which has been marked by security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in recent years.

“Our assessment remains: These are local events. We don’t see a change in direction, but we will remain at high alert and won’t relax our efforts to protect the Israeli people,” IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Army Radio Monday morning.

Washington condemned the killing of the soldiers and called on all parties to denounce the slayings.

“Such violence and terror are unacceptable, and undermine efforts to establish the positive atmosphere the parties need to progress in peace negotiations,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an emailed statement.

As of Monday afternoon, the Palestinian Authority had yet to condemn the killings.

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