The Israeli government has indicated it will ramp up military drills and continue raids in the occupied territories of the West Bank, a week after a Palestinian-American journalist was killed while reporting on the issue.
Israel came under intense international scrutiny following the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera reporter. The broadcaster and three journalists who witnessed the shooting blamed Israeli soldiers for shooting her in the head last week on Wednesday while covering a raid on a Palestinian home in a refugee camp in Jenin. Israel has admitted that it’s possible one of its soldiers killed her.
But in a speech on Tuesday, Naftali Bennett, the Israeli Prime Minister, told soldiers that the government will continue to ramp up its security efforts amid growing tensions.
The news also comes after Israeli forces were filmed striking pallbearers at Abu Akleh’s funeral, horrifying people around the world.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is preparing for double the amount of violence seen in cities with large Arab-Israeli populations if a war like last year’s Gaza war broke out, Bennett said.
Bennett told the army that it had his full backing during a visit to the Ephraim Brigade in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli forces at Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral procession. PHOTO: Muammar Awad/Xinhua via Getty Images
“The Israeli government provides full backing and freedom of action to IDF, police and Border Police forces to catch and hit terrorists wherever in Jerusalem, West Bank, or the rest of the country,” he said.
“Whoever raises a hand to an Israeli civilian or IDF soldier will pay the price.”
Last year saw a devastating 11-day war on the Gaza strip, in which 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and at least 13 Israelis, including 2 children, were killed.
Tensions have been growing between Israelis and Palestinians over the last 2 months. In a series of attacks, armed Palestinians and Arab-Israelis killed 18 people in separate incidents in different cities across Israel. Palestinian groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have distanced themselves from the attacks, but both praised the perpetrators.
The Israeli army responded with a series of raids on Palestinian homes, saying it was looking for residents with links to the men who carried out the attacks. At least 30 Palestinians have been killed so far, with more injured and hundreds arrested since March this year.
Riots broke out in Jerusalem on Tuesday night after the funeral of a young Palestinian man, with Israeli police firing rubber bullets at Palestinians throwing stones. Waleed Shareef died of his injuries after Israeli forces fired rubber bullets during a protest in the city.