Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his commitment Wednesday to fighting terrorism, declaring “war” on those across the country who throw stones and Molotov cocktails amid rising tensions in Jerusalem.
The prime minister spoke as police were deployed to the Temple Mount to calm rising tensions in the city after an Israeli was killed over the Jewish New Year in a stone-throwing attack in the capital.
“We’re changing the policy. The current situation is unacceptable to us,” Netanyahu said during a tour of Route 443, which connects Tel Aviv and Jerusalem via the West Bank and has in recent months been the scene of several attacks against Israelis.
“We will give instruments to policemen and soldiers, so that they can take very firm action against those who throw stones and Molotov cocktails.”
The prime minister said he would change open-fire orders, increase the minimum sentence for those who throw stones and Molotov cocktails, and start imposing fines on minors and their parents who commit such attacks.
Before making his statement from an army base along Route 443, Netanyahu visited the Jerusalem site of Sunday’s deadly stone throwing attack in East Talpiot.
On Sunday evening, 64-year Jerusalemite Alexander Levlovitz was killed when his vehicle was struck by rocks as he made his way home from a Rosh Hashanah dinner.
“In the State of Israel these things are unacceptable and I don’t only mean on the routes surrounding Jerusalem or Jerusalem itself,” the prime minister said. “I am also talking about the Galilee and the Negev. We’re changing the policy to [declare] war on stone throwers and those who throw Molotov cocktails.”
Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount, which allows Jews to visit but not to pray there.
At the same time, he said that the status quo is being violated constantly by Arabs who incite against Jewish visitors at the site.
“This too is unacceptable and we will deal with it as well, in coordination with Jordan and others,” he said.
The Temple Mount complex has been the site of riots in the last several days, although the area was reported to be relatively calm Wednesday morning with the deployment of police forces. Jordan’s King Abdullah threatened diplomatic sanctions over what he termed “Israeli violations” at the sensitive holy site.
Other Israeli officials have also vowed to crack down on stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks in the wake of the week’s unrest.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday that stone throwing was akin to “attempted murder.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that stone throwers need to pay a “heavy price” for their actions. If current measures are not enough, Barkat added, he would fight until the phenomenon was eliminated, according to Army Radio.
Barkat added that the police needs additional tools in order to fight stone-throwers and he estimated that 400 additional officers were necessary in order to enforce fines and arrests against stone-throwers, the Haaretz daily reported.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked added that new policies which were to be implemented would treat people who throw stones or Molotov cocktails like those with “murder weapons.”