Israel to crack down on Jewish extremists

Jerusalem: The Israeli security cabinet on Sunday called for a crackdown on Jewish extremists with harsher measures following an arson attack which killed a Palestinian toddler.

The security cabinet, a forum of top government ministers, convened Sunday evening on a response to the attack that occurred overnight Thursday at the Palestinian village of Duma in the northern West Bank, believed by Israeli authorities to be the act of Jewish right-wing extremists. The suspects have yet to be captured, Xinhua reported.

“The security cabinet views the arson and murder in Duma as a terrorist attack in every respect,” said a statement released by the Government Press Office after the meeting.

The cabinet decided to “direct the security agencies to take all necessary steps to apprehend those responsible and prevent similar acts”, it added.

The cabinet approved the use of all means at the disposal of security agencies, including the use of administrative detention, meaning incarceration without trial, the statement said, adding that the use of administrative detention has been approved by the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein.

The security cabinet would seek to advance legislation that would fight terrorist acts of Jewish extremists and establish a ministerial committee to be headed by Defensce Minister Moshe Yaalon in order to come up with solutions to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.

Earlier on Sunday, the defence ministry said that Yaalon approved using administrative detention against the suspects of the arson attack in Duma once and if they are apprehended.

Administration detention is a tool used by the Israeli defence establishment to lock up suspected militants, used mostly against Palestinians, and is controversial.

Whereas on the one hand security officials claim they are needed for security reasons to handle terrorism, human rights groups charge against the often-prolonged incarceration without due process.

A senior security official told Israel Radio that there is no choice but to treat the suspects of the attack as having committed a hate crime against Palestinians, just as is done with Palestinians suspected of committing attacks.

The official noted that the suspects were sophisticated in their crime since they did not bring any mobile phones with them in order to avoid being tracked.

A little before 4 a.m. on Friday, two masked men reached two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma, broke windows, and hurled Molotov cocktails inside. Villagers said the arsonists were settlers from a nearby Jewish settlement.

Both homes caught fire. One building was empty at the time, but the second had a family inside, and the flames spread, killing a one-and-a-half year-old baby, Ali Dawabsha. His four-year old brother and both his parents were injured. The baby’s mother sustained 70 percent burns.

Israeli officials of all stripes harshly condemned the incident. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said directly after the attack that he was “shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act. This is an act of terrorism in every respect”.

Thousands of people joined political leaders and President Reuven Rivlin at rallies in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa on Saturday night to condemn violence in Israeli society, including the Duma attack, as well as the stabbing attack at Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade on Thursday.