Israeli PM vows crackdown on Jewish extremists

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister on Wednesday ordered a crackdown on Jewish extremists believed to be responsible for a wave of violence and vandalism against Israeli soldiers and Muslim mosques.

The move followed the arrest of suspected extremists and an attack on a disused mosque.

Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that he had accepted recommendations made by his Cabinet ministers to stop the disturbances.

The measures grant soldiers the ability to make arrests, ban extremists from contentious areas and enable rioters to be tried in military courts. The prime minister stopped short of accepting a recommendation from the ministers to define the extremists as “terrorists.”

Earlier Wednesday, Israeli police arrested six suspected Jewish extremists in a raid on a Jerusalem apartment.

The crackdown came hours after arsonists torched a Jerusalem mosque in an overnight attack. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the six suspects, who appeared to be in their late teens or early 20s, were detained in connection to “recent events” but were not believed to be involved in the latest mosque attack.

The Israeli government has vowed to root out and punish assailants who in recent months have vandalized military bases, mosques, cemeteries, farmlands and cars in the West Bank and Israel proper.

The attacks are believed to be the work of Jewish extremists who are upset over government policies that they feel are unfairly biased in favor of Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “take care of these attackers with a firm hand” and Defense Minister Ehud Barak decried the “homegrown terror.”

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