Israeli government ministers voted Sunday to advance a bill which would seek more severe penalties for throwing rocks or other dangerous items. The vote comes during a significant increase in stone-throwing and other violent incidents in Jerusalem.
According to the bill, the penal code would be amended to impose sentences of up to 20 years in prison for throwing rocks, up from only two years under the current code. The day of the vote, police reported two separate stone-throwing incidents in the Jewish capital, one directed against a bus near the Old City, and a second incident in the southern neighborhood of East Talpiot. Although most victims of rock attacks suffer only mild injuries, some incidents have inflicted serious wounds or even death in the past.
In a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged ministers to take action to protect the city from the recent spate of terror attacks.
“Israel is taking vigorous action against terrorists and those who throw stones, fire bombs and fireworks,” Netanyahu said. “We will also pass stronger legislation on the issue. All of this is in order to restore quiet and security throughout Jerusalem. I have ordered that massive reinforcements be brought in [to Jerusalem] and that additional means be used in order to ensure law and order in Israel’s capital.”
In addition to the now almost routine stone-throwing, Saturday night saw police in the city attacked by fireworks and an improvised bomb in several different Arab neighborhoods, and a 13-year-old Arab attacked a Jewish man near the Old City. Previous attacks and riots have taken fully one third of the city’s light rail cars out of commission, according to Citipass, the company which operates the train system.
Much of the current spate of violence centers around the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, but under the control of the Islamic Religious Authority, or Waqf. Jews are not allowed to pray there, and have only limited visitation access.
Last week, an assassination attempt was made on the life of Rabbi Yehuda Glick, an activist for Jewish access to the Temple Mount. His attacker was ultimately found and killed.