Left-wing activists: IDF uses live ammo to break up West Bank protests
Smaller .22 ammo was banned during Al-Aqsa Intifada; 8 protestors lightly hurt by snipers at Friday rally.
Palestinians and Israeli left-wing activists claim that in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the Israel Defense Forces has reintroduced the use of a semiautomatic rifle that uses live ammunition to disperse crowds that was banned after the second Intifada.
The Ruger .22 rifle was banned following the Al-Aqsa Intifada, in which it was used to break up protests and caused the deaths of a number of Palestinians, including youths and children.
In 2001, the IDF's then-Military Advocate General Menahem Finkelstein ruled that the rifle, used against protesters and stone-throwers, be viewed as a lethal weapon in all senses.
The rifle has been used by snipers to shoot at protesters from the waist down, and last Friday it was used to fire on activists, eight of whom sustained light wounds to the leg.
The .22 rifle fires a small cartridge which has a much lower stopping power than larger caliber rifles in use by Israeli security forces, but can still be lethal at close range. IDF snipers will use the rifle to fire at demonstrators, aiming at the lower half of the body.
The rifle was used by security forces against Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank last Friday, with 8 demonstrators sustaining light wounds to their legs.
"We have never seen these rifles used before. The soldiers use them to break up demonstrations, not in instances where their lives are in danger. They shoot from long range, far past the range of rock-throwers," left-wing activist Yonatan Pollak said.
A West Bank resident who was wounded by the .22 fire told Haaretz Friday that he and his friends were leaving their village for a demonstration when as they approached the West Bank Security Fence they were fired upon by IDF soldiers.
The man said he was shot three times in the leg and suffers from lingering pain as a result. He said his friend who was also shot in the incident was more severely injured and lost a great deal of blood.
An IDF official said Friday that the rifle is less lethal and causes less damage than a rubber bullet.
"These demonstrations can be very dangerous. Our goal is to cause as little damage as possible in order to calm the situation", the official said.