Israel’s security cabinet has approved measures that allow police to open fire with live ammunition at Palestinian protesters throwing stones when officers believe that lives are in danger.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet late Thursday that police can and should open fire at stone-throwers in such circumstances, Israeli media reported.
“Until recently, police officers would open fire when their own lives were at risk,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting held to discuss how to confront the increase in stone-throwing incidents in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, according to the reports.
“From now on, they will be allowed to open fire — and they will know they have a right to do so — when anyone’s life is in danger,” he said.
Police reportedly would be able to fire relatively small-caliber rounds from Ruger rifles at people hurling stones, firebombs or fireworks.
The measures extending the circumstances under which police can fire live ammunition had drawn criticism in advance, with the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem warning in a recent report that easing the policy would only exacerbate the violence in East Jerusalem and have lethal consequences.
“The government is bent on continuing to address the situation in East Jerusalem only by force,” B’Tselem said.
It said that while police must keep public order and protect residents, “the approach that has been taken is unlawful and immoral. It ignores the deep-seated discrimination in East Jerusalem and the daily violations of the human rights of its Palestinian residents, while using increasingly violent measures against them.”
The policy shift follows the death last week of an Israeli motorist in a crash after his car was struck by stones.
In recent days, East Jerusalem has witnessed a rise in clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian residents that are mainly concentrated at the Al Aqsa mosque, which is at a site also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Police restrictions at times on Palestinian movements in the area have provoked clashes and stone-throwing at police and civilians in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the city.
Meanwhile on Friday, Palestinians buried Ahmad Khatatbeh, 25, in Beit Furik near Nablus after he succumbed to wounds sustained from Israeli army gunfire last Friday during clashes in his village.
More than 23 Palestinians have been shot and killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of the year.
Abukhater is a special correspondent.