Israel has nothing against the residents of east Jerusalem, but it will not tolerate attacks in the capital and will act firmly against perpetrators of violence and those who incite them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, a day after two terrorists killed five people in a Har Nof synagogue.
Netanyahu’s comments came as he visited the Jerusalem Municipality’s new command center for the observation balloons now hovering above various parts of the city – a new component in intensive efforts to tamp down violence in the capital.
“No effort is being spared,” said Netanyahu, in a clear effort to try to restore a sense of security to Jerusalem residents jarred by the significant uptick in terrorism.
Netanyahu characterized as “significant” the demolition earlier in the morning of the home of the terrorist from Silwan responsible for the attack at a Jerusalem light rail station last month that killed two, including a three-month- old baby
“There will be more house demolitions and many other steps,” he said. “With a determined and vigorous hand, we will restore security to Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu was briefed about the observation balloons by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who explained how they assist security forces in dealing with rioters and rock throwers.
The defensive concept that has come together over the last few days “will dramatically increase” Israel’s ability to provide an answer to the violence, Barkat said.
Soon after the visit, Netanyahu convened the security cabinet to discuss the situation in Jerusalem and ways to combat it. He held security consultations before the meeting, weighing different steps that could be implemented to keep the level of violence from getting worse.
However, no new steps were announced.
One government source said there was contact at “all different levels” between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Palestinian Authority, as well as “routine, ongoing contact” with Amman.
Meanwhile, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist group belonging to the PLO, on Wednesday endorsed the assailants who carried out Tuesday’s attack.
The group’s armed wing, Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, initially claimed responsibility for the attack, however spokesmen for the group later sought to distance themselves from the announcement, saying it was premature to talk about claims of responsibility.
A statement released by the PFLP leadership in the Gaza Strip said: “The PFLP mourns its two comrades, proudly praises this heroic operation and considers it a natural response to the crimes of the occupation.”
The statement said the “resistance is ongoing and the intifada is imminent.”
The PFLP organized a number of rallies in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to “celebrate” the Har Nof attack. Supporters of the group marched in the streets chanting slogans in favor of the attack, holding posters of the two terrorists, and handing out sweets to passersby to express their jubilation.
Additionally, the PA leadership in the West Bank has embarked on some damage control following allegations that its representatives have been inciting violence against Israel.
Under pressure from US Secretary of State John Kerry, PA President Mahmoud Abbas was forced on Tuesday to twice condemn the terrorist attack – a move that has been widely denounced by many Palestinians.
According to a Palestinian source, the PA has instructed its top representatives to avoid appearing in the media to comment on the attack.
The decision came after some senior Fatah officials on Tuesday refused to condemn the attack and blamed Israel for the recent wave of terrorism against Israelis.
The source told the daily Al-Quds
newspaper that the decision to ban senior PA officials from appearing in the media was taken under pressure from the US so as to avoid embarrassing the US Administration, which has been working to calm the situation.
The PA’s daily newspaper Al-Ayyam
, meanwhile, published an op-ed in which it said that there was nothing “heroic” about the Har Nof attack.
“Nothing justifies the torching of a mosque and nothing justifies a deadly attack on a synagogue,” the paper wrote.
In the wake of the massacre, some other Jerusalem synagogues have upgraded their security arrangements.
The Jerusalem Great Synagogue posted on its website a notice stating that security coverage has been expanded, indicating that an additional guard and patrols of the entire premises have been added to existing security precautions.
The Hazvi Yisrael Synagogue in upscale Talbiyeh sent an email to members and regular congregants stating that steps are being taken to protect the synagogue and its congregants and asked for suggestions as to how this could best be done.
The email cautioned congregants to remain alert for any suspicious activity in or near the synagogue and notified members where panic buttons are located on the premises.
In addition to steps taken by individual synagogues, Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said security has been heightened throughout the capital, with special emphasis on the Central Bus Station.
“Different units have been mobilized in all public areas, including bus and light-rail stops, shops and walkways,” he said. “Police have also begun spot checks of vehicles.”
Rosenfeld said some 40 masked Palestinian youths threw rocks at officers during a riot in east Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood Wednesday morning, necessitating the use of nonlethal stun grenades to disperse the mob. There were no injuries or arrests, he said.Greer Faye Cashman contributed to this report.