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 mosques.

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

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 yesterday, 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.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Gazans turned out Wednesday for an anniversary rally of the ruling Hamas, a demonstration of strength for the Islamic militant movement ahead of Palestinian general elections tentatively set for the spring.

The annual rally has become an increasingly elaborate exercise in stagecraft since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 following internal fighting with forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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