Israeli leaders proposed harsh new measures to curb "Jewish terrorism" after a wave of extremist violence left Israeli and Palestinian children dead in knife and arson attacks.
An Israeli teenager, described by her parents as a sweet and magical child, succumbed to her wounds yesterday after being stabbed by a Jewish extremist at a gay pride parade last week.
Hours earlier, thousands of Israelis held anti-violence rallies across the country protesting against attacks by Israeli assailants against gays and Palestinians.
Israelis were reeling from the fast-moving violence of recent days that included Jewish settlers clashing with government forces at a West Bank settlement, the knife attack at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, and a lethal arson attack in a Palestinian village that saw a toddler burned to death.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israeli authorities should be allowed to employ the same heavy-handed measures against Israeli terrorism suspects as the state uses against Palestinian suspects in the occupied West Bank, freeing the military to seek "administrative detention" against suspects, which would enable them to hold detainees for months, and sometimes years, in prison without presenting charges.
After speaking out against attacks by Jewish extremists and saying he felt shame the violence had come "from my own people", Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was deluged with threats on social media, leading his security detail to file a complaint with Israeli police because of fears that the leader's life was in danger.
Rivlin was called a "traitor" and a "terrorist" on Facebook posts in Hebrew and was depicted wearing a keffiyeh, a Palestinian checked scarf.
During a period of similar tumult two decades ago, a right-wing Jewish extremist shot and killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 as he left a peace rally attended by more than 100,000 in Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Government will have "zero tolerance" for Jewish extremists, vowing that Israel is committed to fight "hate, fanaticism and terrorism from whatever side". He then went on the attack, applauding Israeli leaders who condemned Jewish extremists but asking why Palestinian leaders praise acts of terror on their side.
"We deplore and condemn these murderers. We will pursue them to the end," the Prime Minister said. "They name public squares after the murderers of children. This distinction cannot be blurred or covered up."
Palestinian officials replied that it was Netanyahu and his Government who had been peddling incitement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who ordered his security forces in the West Bank to combat violent protests against Israel at the weekend, said Netanyahu wanted to see violence flare in the West Bank. "Why does Netanyahu say there is no partner for peace?" Abbas said, according to the Jerusalem Post. "Is it because he has no interest in peace? His best weapon is the intifada", a reference to the surge of suicide bombings by Palestinians in the early 2000s.
The stabbing at the gay pride parade was carried out by a man who appeared to be an Ultra-Orthodox Jew, Yishai Schlissel, recently freed after 10 years in prison for committing a similar assault.
One of those injured, Shira Banki, 16, has died of her wounds.
"Our magical Shira was murdered because she was a happy 16-year-old - full of life and love - who came to express her support for her friends' rights to live as they choose. For no good reason and because of evil, stupidity and negligence, the life of our beautiful flower was cut short," said her family, according to the Israeli news website Walla.
Spiral of violence
Israeli soldiers and police clashed with Jewish settlers last week at the West Bank community of Beit El. The Israeli authorities were attempting to demolish two illegal structures at the Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah that were built without permits on private Palestinian land. Two buildings were levelled but only after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 300 housing units would be built in their place.
2 Israel's gay community came under attack as a Jewish extremist stabbed six people during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem.
3 Arsonists set fire to two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma in the West Bank, burning a toddler alive and injuring three others. The investigation is under a gag order but it appears that so far no arrests have been made. The assailants signed their work with a spray-painted message that read "Revenge!" in Hebrew, next to a scrawled image of a Star of David. Authorities say the attack was most likely carried out by Jewish extremists in reaction to events in Beit El.
- Washington Post-Bloomberg