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Israel punishes attacker's family as violence rages

Israeli soldiers speak with relatives of Khayri Alqam, the gunman who killed seven people in an attack on Friday, as they prepare to demolish his home
— Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel on Sunday 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.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged all parties to avoid feeding a "spiral of violence" during a telephone call on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the president's office.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due in Jerusalem on Monday to discuss steps for de-escalation, while Pope Francis on Sunday deplored the "death spiral".

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".

Israeli emergency service personnel and security forces stand near a covered body after the shooting in a settler neighbourhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem

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.

Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's predominantly Arab neighbourhood of Silwan, where an assailant shot and wounded two people, on January 28, 2023

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 -

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem

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.

Palestinians gather in the Al-Aqsa mosques compound before the Friday noon prayer in Jerusalem on January 27, 2023

"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.

Aharon Natan, father of 14-year-old Asher Natan who was killed in Friday's attack, mourns during his funeral in Jerusalem

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 -

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Cairo Sunday, was due to arrive in Israel Monday for crisis talks

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 on Sunday as 18-year-old Karam Ali Ahmad Salman.