Prime Minister Benjamin 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.
Ahead of an emergency meeting convened Tuesday evening 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,” Israel Hayom quoted him saying.
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.
“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.”
During the meeting, Netanyahu confirmed he was fast-tracking legislation that would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for suspects convicted of throwing homemade weapons.
According to the report, the minimum sentencing will apply to anyone defined as “endangering life,” which the legislation defines as anyone throwing stones, firebombs or improvised explosive devices.
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.
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 regard.”
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 directed 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.