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Israeli paramilitary border police stand next to the family home of a Palestinian gunman who killed several people in an attack on Friday outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem. Mahmoud Illean/AP

US secretary Blinken due in Jerusalem to discuss de-escalation of Israel-Palestinian bloodshed

Israel has sought to demolish the east Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian gunman as part of measures to punish the relatives of attackers.

US SECRETARY OF State Antony Blinken is due in Jerusalem later today to discuss steps for de-escalation in violence between Israel and Palestine.

French president Emmanuel Macron has urged all parties to avoid feeding a “spiral of violence” during a telephone call on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while Pope Francis has deplored the “death spiral”.

Yesterday, Israel prepared to demolish the east Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian man who killed seven people near a synagogue, as part of measures to punish the relatives of attackers.

The step comes as violence rages in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which also saw dozens of Palestinians killed this month, sparking global alarm.

embeddedcb6aa3683a6446319e9cede40427950e Blinken’s visit will be the highest-level US engagement with Netanyahu since he retook power last month. AP AP

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also urged “maximum responsibility” in calls with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.

In the wake of two shooting attacks targeting Israelis, Netanyahu’s security cabinet moved to punish “the families of terrorists that support terrorism”.

The government is planning to rescind the rights to social security benefits of attackers’ relatives and has also considered easing access to guns for Israeli civilians.

In the first concrete move, Netanyahu’s cabinet said the east Jerusalem home of 21-year-old Khayri Alqam — shot dead by police following Friday’s attack — “will be sealed immediately ahead of its demolition”.

An AFP correspondent saw Israeli forces on the property after they shuttered its entrances, with Palestinians clearing out their belongings.

Alqam’s mother was one of five people who remained in custody on Sunday, police said, out of 42 suspects arrested after the shooting in the settlement of Neve Yaakov.

Although Israel already routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis, the process requires prior notice to families and allows for an appeals process.

Dani Shenhar, a legal expert at Israeli rights group HaMoked, said sealing off Alqam’s home overnight demonstrated the government’s desire for “revenge against the families”.

The measure was carried out “in complete disregard for the rule of law”, he charged, adding that HaMoked would launch a protest with Israel’s attorney general. 

- Gun permits -

The government went one step further on Sunday, announcing that the home of a 13-year-old boy who shot two Israelis would also be sealed off “even though his attack caused severe injury to its victims and not their deaths”.

The boy was shot and detained after the attack in Silwan neighbourhood just outside east Jerusalem’s walled Old City.

The punitive measures are in line with proposals from Netanyahu’s extreme-right political partners, whose support enabled him to return to power in late December.

They are likely to apply primarily to Palestinians with Israeli nationality, known as Arab Israelis, and Palestinians with residency permits for annexed east Jerusalem.

Revoking Israeli identity cards of the relatives of attackers was on the agenda Sunday at Netanyahu’s weekly cabinet meeting.

The government also plans to make it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain permits to carry firearms.

“When civilians have guns, they can defend themselves,” extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said Saturday outside a Jerusalem hospital.

The Jerusalem attacks came after the deadliest raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank in nearly two decades killed 10 Palestinians.

Israel said Thursday’s raid in Jenin targeted operatives from Islamic Jihad, which along with Hamas later fired several rockets from Gaza, prompting Israeli retaliatory strikes on Hamas sites. No casualties were reported.

Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 34 Palestinian adults and children — including attackers, militants and civilians.

Friday’s shooting was the first fatal attack targeting Israelis this year and killed six Israeli civilians, including a child, and one Ukrainian citizen. 

- Arson and vandalism -

The bloodshed is expected to top the agenda when Blinken meets Netanyahu, before travelling to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The surge in violence has been followed by a wave of arson and vandalism.

A Palestinian home and vehicle in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya were torched overnight. An Israeli security official told AFP Israeli extremists were the suspected perpetrators.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said 120 cars were hit by stones, allegedly thrown by settlers, and 22 shops attacked in the Nablus area Saturday night.

Outside the nearby Israeli settlement of Kedumim, guards killed a Palestinian who the army alleged had a handgun.

The Palestinian health ministry identified him yesterday as 18-year-old Karam Ali Ahmad Salman.

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