PM seeks harsher penalties against stone-throwers
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PM seeks harsher penalties against stone-throwers

In emergency meeting, Netanyahu vows to use 'any means necessary' to restore order; president, Jerusalem mayor join chorus calling for action

Still image taken from a video released by an Israel Police spokesman showing Palestinians gearing up for a confrontation on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sunday, September 13, 2015. (screen capture: Israel Police)
Still image taken from a video released by an Israel Police spokesman showing Palestinians gearing up for a confrontation on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sunday, September 13, 2015. (screen capture: Israel Police)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the establishment of a committee that will reexamine the rules of engagement with stone-throwers who endanger lives.

At an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office late Tuesday to discuss measures to curb an increasing trend of Palestinians using homemade weapons against Israelis, Netanyahu said that stone-throwers would face harsher penalties in the future.

“I take the throwing of stones or firebombs against Israelis very seriously, and I intend to fight this phenomenon by any means necessary, including the use of implementing stricter sentences and enforcement,” he said.

The meeting was attended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and senior security officials.

The committee would submit its recommendations within a week, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Netanyahu also ordered the Israel Police and state prosecution to form a separate committee to examine ways to deter such attacks by increasing the severity of penalties and sentences.

The committee was specifically tasked by the prime minister with determining the efficacy of measures such as imposing high minimum sentences, and instituting steep fines on minors and their parents who participate in rock-throwing attacks.

Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu vowed to use “any means necessary” to curb stoning-throwing attacks against Israelis and ongoing violence on the Temple Mount, which on Tuesday saw Palestinians clashing with Israeli police for a third consecutive day.

The emergency meeting came after three days of violent clashes on the Temple Mount and a rock-throwing attack that led to a fatal car crash in Jerusalem Sunday night, killing the driver, Alexander Levlovitz.

“We mark a sharp change in policy against those throwing stones or firebombs,” the prime minister said. “No measure or action will be spared in restoring calm to Jerusalem and its surrounding area.”

Palestinians shout in front of Israeli security forces who block a road leading to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on September 13, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Palestinians shout in front of Israeli security forces who block a road leading to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on September 13, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

According to the report, the minimum sentencing, which the prime minister said would be fast-tracked in legislation, will apply to anyone defined as “endangering life.”

Ya’alon condemned the uptick in violence in recent days and said the struggle against terrorism “requires us to be determined and uncompromising in the operational, intelligence and legal fields.” He added that Israel’s security establishment would pursue terrorists or anyone else threatening the security of civilians, soldiers and police officers.

Erdan and President Reuven Rivlin both made statements calling for increased punishment for stone throwers. Erdan said that stone-throwers are “murderers in every sense.”

Alexander Levlovitz, the man who died when he lost control of his car and crashed after terrorists threw rocks at the vehicle in Jerusalem. Levlovitz died early in the hours of Monday morning, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on September 14, 2015. (Courtesy)
Alexander Levlovitz, the man who died when he lost control of his car and crashed after terrorists threw rocks at the vehicle in Jerusalem. Levlovitz died early in the hours of Monday morning, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on September 14, 2015. (Courtesy)

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday said that the murder of Alexander Levlovitz demonstrated “that stone-throwing is a terror attack like any other.”

On Sunday, Levlovitz, and two other passengers traveling in his car in Jerusalem, came under attack by stone-throwers, causing him to drive into a ditch and hit a pole. He died of his wounds the following morning. Levlovitz will be laid to rest Wednesday evening in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood.

“It is not plausible that there is no deterrence for stone-throwers who are caught, released and continue to carry out terror attacks. I call on the national government to immediately implement legislation that will put stone throwers behind bars for many years,” Barkat said ahead of the cabinet meeting. “Harsh punishment, creating deterrents and targeted operational activities are the only way to combat these terror attacks.”

Barkat criticized the government for allowing a situation in which the Temple Mount — a site considered holy by both Islam and Judaism — would be used “as a haven for terrorists.”

“We are committed to maintaining freedom of religion and status quo in Jerusalem. I vigorously condemn the cynical use of this freedom by extremists who transform holy sites into places of terror,” he said in a statement. Jerusalem’s mosques, churches and synagogues will not harbor violence, just like the Vatican, Mecca and other sites around the world.”

On Sunday, as Israel celebrated the Jewish New Year, police said they discovered pipe bombs in the Temple Mount’s al-Aqsa Mosque during what they said was a preemptive operation at the flashpoint holy site.

Palestinian rioters have clashed repeatedly with Israeli security forces since the operation.

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