Israel Sets Up Eastern Yerushalayim Roadblocks in Bid to Stem Attacks

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Israel started setting up roadblocks in Palestinian neighborhoods in eastern Yerushalayim and deploying soldiers in cities across the country on Wednesday to try to combat the surge of violence.

It was not a full closure, a sealing off of Palestinian areas, that had been talked of the day before, but rather, as one Israeli official termed it, a “loose encirclement.”

“No one is going to lock down east Yerushalayim,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Army Radio.

Paramilitary Border Police used their vehicles to block an exit at the edge of Jabel Mukabar, a flashpoint east Yerushalayim neighborhood and home to three Palestinians who murdered and wounded Israelis on Tuesday.

Policemen carried out body searches and examined the identity papers of Palestinian motorists. Cars were then allowed to leave.

The new measure was authorized by Israel’s security cabinet hours earlier in an overnight session after a day in which three Israelis were killed and 20 others wounded.

Palestinian leaders protested. PA President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of stepping up its “aggressive offensive” and accused the police of carrying out “field executions” against Palestinians. He said the Palestinians would bring the case before the International Criminal Court.

Abbas also warned that Israel’s actions threatened peace and stability and could ignite a “religious conflict” involving the entire world.

The security cabinet conference, which did not break up until the early hours of Wednesday, approved other measures, as well, including: revocation of residency rights of Palestinians deemed to have committed “terrorism”; a step-up in the demolition of homes of terrorists; extra guards on public transport; and the deployment of army units in “sensitive areas” along the security barriers.

Later in the day, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved the call-up of 1,400 reservists in the Border Police. So far, 850 reservists have been called up.

The residency status of 19 individuals in eastern Yerushalayim accused of involvement in terror attacks will be revoked, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom said Wednesday

In addition, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the bodies of dead Palestinian terrorists should not be returned to their families for burial.

Erdan explained that funeral processions of Palestinians who killed Israelis often turn into “an exhibition of support for terror and incitement to murder.”

Instead, he proposed that they be buried without fanfare in distant cemeteries where previous Palestinian killers have been buried.

Erdan approved on Wednesday changes making it easier to obtain a gun license, due to the security situation. “In recent weeks, many civilians have helped the Israel Police arrest terrorists who committed acts of terrorism. Civilians trained in the use of firearms are a force multiplier in the struggle against terrorism, and I have therefore taken measures to make it easier to get a license at this time,” he said.

Requirements for a minimum length of time served as an officer were eliminated, and more lenient guidelines issued regarding which IDF officers would be permitted to carry arms while off duty.

Several new metal detectors have been installed throughout the Old City, including at the entrance to Har Habayis, to prevent further attacks in the Arab Quarter, where several Jews have been stabbed since the beginning of the month.

Many settlements decided on Tuesday night to temporarily close their gates to Palestinian workers on Wednesday, and in some cases for the rest of the week, to protect themselves against possible attacks in their home communities.

While the cabinet held off on closure of Palestinian areas, some communities in Gush Etzion, Shomron, the Binyamin Region, as well as Givat Ze’ev and the cities of Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Beitar Illit, opted for the more drastic approach, barring Palestinian workers from entering.

Officials said they would reassess in the course of events, considering the heavy impact on the construction industry that relies mostly on Palestinians.

Separately, the Yesha Council canceled the rally it had planned for Tuesday night to call for more security and building. It also ended the daily protest it had held outside Netanyahu’s home since October 1, when Palestinian gunmen killed Eitam and Naama Henkin as they drove with their four children in the Shomron.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who began the daily protest, said they halted the protests out of a sense of national responsibility.

“These are difficult days for the prime minister, too. In recent days I sat with him for many long hours, and we felt that leaving aside the disagreements, the prime minister opened both his heart and his head, so that he’s more open and understanding than ever before to our national and security demands,” Dagan said.