Israel PM orders harsher penalties for stone-pelters

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday met law enforcement officials and legal experts over the escalating violence in Arab east Jerusalem, ordering the judiciary to expedite legislation which dramatically stiffens penalties against stone-pelting Palestinians.

Jerusalem: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday met law enforcement officials and legal experts over the escalating violence in Arab east Jerusalem, ordering the judiciary to expedite legislation which dramatically stiffens penalties against stone-pelting Palestinians.

Among a host of planned initiatives to curtail the violence, Netanyahu wants to push forward a draft bill by the justice ministry, which seeks lengthy prison terms for stone-pelters, Xinhua reported.

The bill, which will be submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in its next meeting, could jail indicted protesters up to 20 years for hurling stones or other objects at moving vehicles and up to five years for committing the same offence against a police officer or a police vehicle, according to a statement from his office.

The proposed legislation comes as the government is introducing new security measures in Jerusalem, where an additional thousand police officers were deployed in recent days to reinforce local police in the capital's Arab neighbourhoods, which since June have become flashpoints of daily clashes that include hurling stones and petrol bombs at police and public transportation.

In addition to the reinforced police presence, undercover border police units and Shin Bet forces, assisted by surveillance drones, have been targeting people suspected of fuelling the violence.

Tensions mounted ahead of a funeral held Sunday night for a Palestinian who rammed his car into a light rail station last week, killing an infant and wounding eight others, in an incident that Israel has labelled a terrorist attack. A 22-year-old Ecuadorian woman, who was critically injured in the strike, died of her wounds in a Jerusalem hospital Sunday.

At Monday's meeting, Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of partnering with radical Islamic elements in an anti-Israel incitement campaign centred on false rumours that Israel was seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

The current rise in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians shows no sign of abating.

Earlier Monday, the prime minister reportedly gave the green light to advance controversial plans for constructing 1,060 new housing units in east Jerusalem neighbourhoods situated beyond the pre-1967 cease-fire lines, as well as infrastructure projects in the West Bank.

Israel's continued settlement construction, which is opposed by many in the international community, has been a major issue stalling peace negotiation.

Last week, the European Union demarcated "red lines" for Israel regarding its settlement policy in the West Bank, warning Israel not to make moves that would jeopardise the creation of a Palestinian state.