Israel seals home of Palestinian synagogue shooter as Netanyahu vows crackdown
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli police sealed off the Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian gunman on Sunday, two days after he killed seven people outside a synagogue, as fears grew of escalation in the deadliest unrest for years in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to make it easier for Israelis to carry guns after the synagogue attack, the deadliest against Jews in the Jerusalem area since 2008. It came a day after the deadliest Israeli military raid for years in the West Bank city of Jenin.
On Saturday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot at a group of Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, wounding two before one of them shot and wounded him. On Sunday, residents of a Palestinian village outside Ramallah in the West Bank said a group from a nearby Israeli settlement had burned one house and smashed doors and windows of another.
Netanyahu said making it easier for Israelis to get permits to carry guns would reduce violence: "We have seen, time and again ... that heroic, armed and trained civilians save lives."
Israeli authorities welded shut the doors and sealed the windows of the family home of Friday's synagogue shooter, whose grandfather, the family said, was killed by an Israeli 25 years ago.
Netanyahu's government also allowed the family house of Saturday's 13-year-old shooter to be sealed even though no one had been killed, changing a standing policy.
Further steps were announced to strengthen settlements in the occupied West Bank, and to revoke the residency rights of relatives of Palestinians who carry out attacks.
"While we will not hesitate to act against terrorism, we wish to regain calm and stability on the ground," said Defence Minister Yoav Gallant after a security assessment in the West Bank.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due in Jerusalem and the West Bank this week for his first visit since Netanyahu returned to power at the helm of a coalition that includes the far right. Blinken's visit looks set to be dominated by efforts to prevent the violence spinning out of control.
A Palestinian gunman died on Sunday of wounds from Thursday's raid in Jenin, raising the death toll from that raid to 10, including two civilians. At least 34 Palestinian fighters and civilians have been killed this month in West Bank clashes with Israeli security forces.
Last year was the deadliest in more than a decade for West Bank Palestinian civilians and militants, with violence steadily escalating following a spate of lethal Palestinian attacks in Israel.
The rise in violence, together with investor jitters over the government's plans to change the judicial system, sent stocks in Tel Aviv falling on Sunday, analysts said.
Friday's synagogue shooting presents a challenge to Netanyahu, who returned to power in December at the head of the most right-wing government in Israeli history, promising to make Israelis safer after Palestinian street attacks last year.
Sworn in a month ago, Netanyahu's government has prioritised settlement-building on lands the Palestinians seek for a state, though it has not yet taken major steps on the ground. Most world powers consider as illegal Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land it captured in the 1967 war.
Awad Abu Samra, whose brother's house in the village of Turmus Ayya was damaged on Sunday, said Israeli settlers were now attacking local farmers "almost every week or so".
"They attack anything that belongs to the Palestinians."
The Israeli military said on Saturday it was sending additional troops into the West Bank, although there was no sign Israel was preparing for a large-scale military operation.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not commented on Friday's attack and on Saturday blamed Israel for the violence. Police said the gunman, who was shot dead by officers as he tried to flee the scene, had apparently acted alone.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Ali Sawafta and Henriette Chacar; Editing by William Mallard, Peter Graff, Ros Russell and Kevin Liffey)