Israeli government calls for retribution and collective punishment in wake of Jerusalem shooting

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  January 29, 2023 

In the aftermath of the Jenin massacre and the shooting operations in Jerusalem, Israeli government officials call for retribution and collective punishment, as tensions on the ground show no signs of subsiding.

The past 72 hours have been some of the deadliest recorded in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem in years.  

Since Thursday, January 26, 14 Palestinians have been killed, and dozens of others have been wounded by Israeli forces and Jewish settlers in the occupied territory — 10 of whom were killed in Jenin during a deadly army raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

During the same time period, six settlers and one Ukrainian woman were killed, and several others were injured in two shooting operations in Jerusalem. 

The situation on the ground has continued to develop rapidly, with rockets fired out of Gaza in response to the massacre in Jenin, and a number of Israeli airstrikes carried out on the besieged strip. 

Several other shooting operations have been carried out by Palestinian armed resistance groups in the West Bank, while Palestinians across the West Bank and Jerusalem have taken to the streets in protest. 

Meanwhile, as Israeli forces stepped up arrests and raids, settlers waged attacks on Palestinians and their property across the West Bank, with 144 incidents of settler violence recorded in a single night on Saturday, according to Palestinian officials. 

In the aftermath of the Jenin raid and the shooting operations in Jerusalem, Israeli government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for swift and sweeping policies of retribution across the occupied Palestinian territory – promising increased punitive home demolitions and other measures meant to target the families of Palestinians who carry out attacks against Israelis. 

But despite the government’s moves towards more collective punishment, the tension on the ground continues to swell and shows no signs of stopping. 

A breakdown of events

On Thursday January 26, Israeli forces shot and killed 9 Palestinians in a single raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank. That same evening, another Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces in the town of Al-Ram, northeast of Jerusalem. 

On Friday, January 27, as the residents of the camp reeled from the violent raid, which they say was the worst raid they’d experienced since the Second Intifada, news broke that a shooting operation had been carried out in occupied East Jerusalem

A young Palestinian man, 21-year-old Khairi Alqam, had gone into the illegal Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov and shot several people in the area. Seven people were killed, including six settlers, and one Ukrainian national. 

Alqam, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Tur, was shot and killed on the scene. It was later revealed that Alqam’s grandfather, after whom he was named, was stabbed to death by a settler in 1998. The settler who killed his grandfather was released from prison in 2010. 

On the same night that Alqam was killed, another Palestinian boy was pronounced dead in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan . Defense for Children International – Palestine said that 17-year-old Wadee Abu Ramouz sustained a gunshot wound below his heart on Wednesday, January 25, and succumbed to his wounds Friday night at 11 p.m. 

The next morning, on Saturday, January 28 in Abu Ramouz’s neighborhood of Silwan, it was reported that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and injured after he allegedly carried out a shooting that left two settlers injured. The shooting occurred near the Israeli “City of David” tourism park, which over the course of several years has displaced dozens of Palestinians in Silwan. 

On Saturday night, a Palestinian from the village of Qusin in the Nablus district was shot and killed by a settlement security guard near the illegal settlement of Kedumim. He was identified as 18-year-old Karam Ali Salman. 

On the morning of Sunday, January 29, Omar Saadi, 24, succumbed to wounds he sustained during Thursday’s army raid on the Jenin refugee camp. Saadi’s death brought the total death toll of the Jenin raid, which Palestinians are now referring to as the “Jenin massacre,” to 10 people. Saadi was one of the founders of the Jenin Brigade.

Israel promises more collective punishment

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of his security cabinet, which is composed of an array of right-wing extremists. In the meeting, Netanyahu announced that his government would be implementing a number of collective punishment measures in response to the shooting. 

Among the measures were:

  • Proposal for looser gun laws, expedited gun permits for Israeli citizens
  • Revoking the social security benefits of the families of Palestinian attackers from East Jerusalem
  • Proposal of a law to deport the families of Palestinian attackers
  • Sealing the family homes of Palestinian attackers ahead of punitive demolition, “in order to exact an additional price from those who support terrorism”
  • Arresting the family and friends of Palestinian attackers
  • Steps to “strengthen” illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank
  • Deploying more military troops in the West Bank

In addition to advocating for arming Israeli citizens with more guns, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a far right extremist, said he would also push for the death penalty against “terrorists.”

The measures announced by Netanyahu’s cabinet were slammed by experts as collective punishment and clear violations of international human rights law.

The measures announced by Netanyahu’s cabinet were slammed by experts as collective punishment and clear violations of international human rights law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prevents the punishing of a protected person for an offense he or she has not committed themselves and also prohibits collective penalties and reprisals against protected persons and their property. 

A number of the measures, such as the proposal to deport the families of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks, are not new ideas and have been proposed in various forms by Israeli politicians and lawmakers over the years. 

The policy of revoking the permanent residency of Palestinians from East Jerusalem has been in practice for years, as laws allowing for the revocation of Israeli citizenship and permanent residency under the pretext of “breach of loyalty” to the state of Israel already exist.

Other measures, like the mass arrest of accused Palestinian attackers’ friends and family and the punitive home demolitions of their homes, have been in place for years, both in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The policy has been described by rights groups as “court-sanctioned revenge” and does not apply to Israeli attackers that kill Palestinians. 

Within one day of the deadly shooting in Jerusalem, Israeli police rounded up and detained some 50 Palestinians in East Jerusalem, primarily from the family and friends of Khairy Alqam, who carried out the operation. Among those detained were also Alqam’s mother. 

By Sunday, Israeli authorities had sealed off the Alqam family home in preparation for demolition. Israeli police released footage of Israeli forces welding metal plates over the home’s windows and welding the front door shut.

Later in the afternoon, Netanyahu’s office announced it would also seal the home of the 13-year-old Palestinian boy from Silwan who shot and injured two settlers. Israel typically demolishes the family homes of Palestinians who kill Israelis, not injure them, marking a clear escalation in the policy. 

In a separate incident on Sunday, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, Israeli forces demolished two Palestinian homes under the pretext that they lacked Israeli-issued permits. Israeli forces also ordered the imminent demolition of four Palestinian homes in the town of Yatta in the Hebron/Al-Khalil district of the West Bank.

On Sunday afternoon, confrontations between armed Israeli forces and Palestinian civilians in Jerusalem and the West Bank continued, with at least one Palestinian injured with live ammunition in Jabal al-Mukabbir, and two Palestinians, including one 13-year-old, injured with live ammunition in the Ramallah-area village of Nabi Saleh. 

Palestinian media also reported several incidents of Israeli forces and settlers closing off the entrances and exits to Palestinian towns and villages in several districts of the West Bank, restricting the movement of residents.  

Jewish settlers launch ‘revenge’ attacks

While the Israeli government announced plans to make it easier for Israeli citizens to carry firearms, settlers were wreaking havoc across the West Bank, conducting a series of attacks on Palestinians and their property. 

Palestinian officials reported that 144 settler attacks were carried out in a single night on Saturday in the Nablus area alone. This included hurling rocks at Palestinian vehicles, setting Palestinian cars on fire, ransacking and damaging Palestinian shops, and uprooting around 200 trees. 

While the Israeli government announced plans to make it easier for Israeli citizens to carry firearms, settlers were wreaking havoc across the West Bank.

In at least one incident, just hours after the shooting operation in Jerusalem on Friday, several Palestinians were injured when an Israeli settler reportedly open fire on them near the entrance to the Nablus-area town of Beita. 

In the town of Majdal Bani Fadel, settlers attacked homes, vehicles, and a Palestinian ambulance with rocks. 

In other areas of the West Bank, settlers set fire to Palestinian homes and vehicles, including in the Ramallah-area village of Turmus Ayya. According to Israeli media, despite three suspects being captured on CCTV footage, Israeli forces had yet to make any arrests. 

In the South Hebron Hills, settlers assaulted and beat a Palestinian man, while reports of settlers hurling rocks at Palestinian cars were reported in Jericho, the Jordan Valley and Ramallah. 

Settlers were also documented attacking a group of Palestinian Armenians in the Old City of Jerusalem with sticks and pepper spray as the settlers attempted to take down the Armenian flag off of a church in the Armenian quarter of the Old City. 

As the Israeli government calls for arming more Israeli citizens, Palestinians fear that the settler violence witnessed over the weekend will only continue to escalate.

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss