Netanyahu gave Israelis ‘green light to shoot Palestinians’ | News about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

There are fears of an increase in violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to make it easier for Israelis to obtain firearms.

On Saturday, Netanyahu said he would speed up the issuance of gun permits for Israeli citizens and step up efforts to collect “illegal weapons.”

His office also promised new steps to “strengthen” illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The announcements came after a meeting of Netanyahu’s security cabinet – filled with hard-line politicians – about two shootings that included an attack in occupied East Jerusalem.

Seven people were killed in a shooting outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem on Friday.

The shooting came at the end of a month of escalating conflict and followed an Israeli attack on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin that killed nine Palestinians and an exchange of fire between Israel and Gaza. In total, Israeli forces have killed 32 Palestinians this month.

Israel’s new government, inaugurated last month, is the most right-wing in the country’s history and has raised fears for Palestinians living under illegal Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Israel proper, as well as for left-wing Israelis.

The new government includes Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, both of whom speak openly about their intention to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and annex Palestinian land, and are known for inciting violence against Palestinians.

Both are settlers living deep inside the occupied West Bank.

“You have a national security minister who has made it very clear that he believes in killing Palestinians, you have a finance minister who has made it clear that [Palestinians] they are only here temporarily,” Haifa-based analyst Diana Buttu told Al Jazeera.

“You also have a prime minister who makes it clear that people should arm themselves and that they will do nothing to stop the killing of Palestinians. You see the recipe is that more and more Palestinians will be killed.”

According to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry, more than 200 Palestinians were killed in 2022. The United Nations said it was the deadliest year for Palestinians in 16 years.

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is among those killed. While reporting, she was shot in the head by Israeli forces in May during a military assault on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Last month, Al Jazeera Media Network submitted a formal request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

“Not in any of those cases [of killed Palestinians] — none — was there an open investigation that led to the charges, even in the case of Shireen, probably the most investigated murder we’ve ever seen,” Buttu said, adding that in more than 90 percent of attacks committed by settlers against Palestinians, “the police don’t nothing, the army does nothing, they just close the file, there are no indictments”.

Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said Netanyahu’s plans to grant more gun permits to Israeli citizens come as Israeli police also encourage those with existing permits to carry their weapons.

“While Netanyahu is urging Israelis not to take the law into their own hands, he is also putting more weapons into those same hands,” said Bays, who described the measures as “collective punishment” and “a clear violation of human rights.” rights”.

Yara Hawari, senior policy fellow at the Shabaka think tank, told Al Jazeera that the announcement was “a worrying escalation that will no doubt lead to more attacks and more extrajudicial killings of Palestinians”.

“With this move, Netanyahu is giving the green light to all Israelis to commit violence against Palestinians with complete impunity,” Hawari said.

Buttu added that Israel is already “armed to the teeth” and that “shooting Palestinians is very common.”

“It’s not at all unusual to see Israeli settlers walking around with not just handguns, but assault rifles,” Buttu said. “It is quite common to see people carrying weapons, whether in shopping malls, buses, trains, religious places.

“The problem here is that it is not just a matter of arming people. It’s that this government has always given the Israelis the green light to go ahead and shoot Palestinians,” whether at the police or military level, she said.

As part of the punitive measures against the Palestinians, Netanyahu also said the homes of suspected attackers would be sealed off before demolition “to exact an additional price from those who support terrorism.”

His office said welfare benefits for the attackers’ families would also be cut.

Buttu said the government “is not just trying to arm people, it is trying to extract punitive measures not only against individuals, but also against their families”.

“Now it’s also going a step further, trying to strip them of their citizenship, trying to strip them of all their national rights.”

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