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An Israeli policeman secures a shooting attack site in east Jerusalem, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday announced a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians, including plans to beef up Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in response to a pair of shooting attacks that killed seven Israelis and wounded five others.
The announcement cast a cloud over a visit next week by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and threatened to further raise tensions following one of the bloodiest months in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in several years.
Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet, which is filled by hard-line politicians aligned with the West Bank settlement movement, approved the measures in the wake of a pair of shootings that included an attack outside an east Jerusalem synagogue on Friday night in which seven people were killed.
Netanyahu’s office said the Security Cabinet agreed to seal off the attacker’s home immediately ahead of its demolition. It also plans to cancel social security benefits for the families of attackers, make it easier for Israelis to get gun licenses and step up efforts to collect illegal weapons.
The announcement said that in response to public Palestinian celebrations over the attack, Israel would take new steps to “strengthen the settlements” this week. It gave no further details.
There was no immediate response from Washington. The Biden administration, which condemned the shooting, opposes settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank — lands sought by the Palestinians for a future state. The topic is likely to be high on the agenda as Blinken arrives Monday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The weekend shootings followed a deadly Israeli raid in the West Bank on Thursday that killed nine Palestinians, most of them militants. In response, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets into Israel, triggering a series of Israeli airstrikes in response. In all, 32 Palestinians have been killed in fighting this month.
Early Sunday, the Israeli military said that security guards in the West Bank settlement of Kedumim had shot a Palestinian who was armed with a handgun and released a photo of what it said was the weapon. There were no further details on the incident or the alleged attacker’s condition.
It remains unclear whether the Israeli steps will be effective. The attackers in the weekend shootings, including a 13-year-old boy, both appear to have acted alone and were not part of organized militant groups.
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