JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a crackdown Wednesday on Jewish extremists believed to be responsible for a wave of violence and vandalism against Israeli soldiers and Muslim places of worship.
The move followed the arrest of suspected extremists and an attack on a disused mosque. Netanyahu, in a statement, said he had accepted recommendations made by his cabinet ministers to stop the disturbances.
The measures empower soldiers to make arrests, ban extremists from contentious areas, and enable military-court trials of rioters. Netanyahu stopped short of accepting a recommendation 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 overnight. 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 upset over government policies that they feel are unfairly biased in favor of Palestinians.
Netanyahu has vowed to "take care of these attackers with a firm hand."
The increasing frequency of the attacks, sparse number of arrests, and absence of indictments have generated allegations that the Israeli government isn't acting forcefully enough against extremists after two years of violence.
During Wednesday's arrests, police burst into an apartment in a religious neighborhood of Jerusalem. The apartment is next to the Merkaz Harav seminary, a stronghold of Jewish nationalists affiliated with the West Bank settlement movement. It was not known if the suspects were students there.