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Israel sets minimum penalties for possession, trafficking of illegal weapons

A general overview of a meeting held in Knesset, Israel on October 3, 2019 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]
A general overview of a meeting held in the Israeli Knesset on 3 October 2019 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images]

The Israeli Knesset today approved a bill ordering minimum penalties for possession and trafficking of illegal weapons, said to be an effort to combat the rising crime rates among the Arab communities.

The legislation, proposed by New Hope MK Sharren Haskel, passed its second and third readings during an overnight session at parliament.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the drive against crime in Arab communities is a "critical effort".

According to the Times of Israel, the law enacts a temporary provision whereby those convicted of possession and trafficking in illegal arms will be punished with a minimum penalty that is equivalent to a quarter of the maximum penalty for the crime.

Since the start of 2021, about 100 Arabs have been killed, with protests being held to urge the government to act.

READ: Israel activist calls for 'weapons to protect Palestinians' from settler violence

Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar welcomed the passage of the bill, saying that his New Hope party was fulfilling an electoral promise to deal with the problem of illegal weapons.

"Punishments that deter are needed to deal with the national scourge of illegal weapons," Sa'ar wrote on Twitter. "We will continue to work to restore law and order throughout the country."

Crimes, mainly murder, have increased sharply in the Arab communities in Israel with consecutive Israeli governments remaining silent.

The head of the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel, Mohammad Baraka, has previously accused the government of encouraging crimes among Arabs "in order to attract the Arab youth to police and army recruitment."

Palestinian citizens of Israel – those who remained during the Nakba – make up 20 per cent of the country's population.

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