Israel has ordered detentions without trial of Israeli citizens suspected of waging violence against Palestinians, as part of a crackdown against those responsible for a deadly arson attack on a Palestinian family in the occupied West Bank.
The so-called administrative detention practice, historically used by Israeli authorities to curb Palestinian unrest, permits detainees to be held indefinitely without charges while authorities gather evidence in criminal cases.
The Israeli security cabinet approved the measure Sunday, two days after suspected Jewish ultra-nationalists torched a Palestinian home in the West bank town of Duma. An 18-month-old toddler burned to death in his bed, while his parents and brother suffered severe injuries.
A Jewish Star of David was spray-painted on a wall of the home along with the words "revenge" and "long live the Messiah."
There has been no claim of responsibility. But officials are quoted as saying evidence at the crime scene was consistent with other vandalism and hate crimes by Jewish extremists that have targeted Christians, Arabs and activists in the West Bank.
In a separate attack linked to Jewish extremism, a right-wing Orthodox Jew stabbed six people Thursday as they marched in a gay rights parade in Jerusalem. Authorities say one of the victims, a 16-year-old girl, died of her injuries Sunday.
The alleged attacker was released from prison three weeks ago, after serving a term for another knife attack on a gay rights march in 2005.
Past use of detention law criticized
Israel has in the past used administrative detention provisions to jail Palestinians for months without trial, and has defended the practice as necessary to prevent attacks by Palestinian militants.
But Jewish human rights groups have routinely accused the government of abusing the procedure during times of high tension and violence between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.
At his weekly government meeting Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described his country as united against "the criminals in our nation." He also said he was shocked by the West Bank attack, calling it an act of terrorism.
But others, including Palestinian Liberation Organization chief Saeb Erekat, blame the Netanyahu government itself for the violence.
On Saturday he accused the government of inciting violence by allowing the construction of Jewish settlements in occupied territory, and for fostering what he described as a "culture of hate."