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The Knesset plenum on Monday approved an amendment to the penal law that calls for a mandatory jail sentence for anyone convicted of attacking the elderly. The amendment stipulates that if a judge wants to avoid handing down a prison sentence, he would have to submit a written justification.

The amendment was approved in its second and third readings.

The new law stems from a long line of initiatives aimed at cracking down on assailants that target the elderly. One of the foremost among these initiatives was one proposed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) who suggested penalizing perpetrators with a mandatory jail term of ten years for assaulting an elderly person, and 20 years for causing egregious harm to an elderly person.

As a result of this initiative, a person who kills an elderly person could receive a lighter sentence than one who causes serious bodily harm. Eventually, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee agreed on a more moderate proposal ? a mandatory jail sentence.

The maximum penalty for causing harm to an elderly person was raised to five years from three years. The maximum penalty for causing egregious harm remains seven years.

The chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), said that the violence against the elderly is a social disease, and that the committee is trying to put out a message that this subject mustn't be ignored.

MK Rotem said that he was proud that the first law that he voted for was designed to protect the elderly. He added that he felt that the penalty was too moderate and comes too late.

The past year has seen a series of high-profile attacks on elderly citizens of Israel, with many involving especially brutal acts of violence.