Netanyahu Asks Attorney General to Authorize Sniper Fire Against Stone-throwers

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An Israeli army soldier aims his weapon at Palestinian stone throwers during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron, Nov. 28, 2014.Credit: Reuters

There is a significant difference in the open fire regulations followed by Israel Police and by the Israeli army. This is what emerged in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emergency meeting with senior members of Israel's defense establishment on Tuesday about the increasing tensions and violence in Jerusalem.  

While the Israel Defense Forces permits troops in the West Bank to operate snipers and use small caliber 0.22 inch Ruger rifles fitted with a sniper scope, the police is not allowed to do this.

When it comes to the IDF, sniper and Ruger fire are allowed when firebombs or large stones are being thrown and commanders in the field are certain that lives are in danger. Shots are mostly fired at perpetrators' legs. In Jerusalem police units, meanwhile, such measures are not allowed. Open fire regulations only permit using crowd dispersal measures, such as firing rubber bullets and throwing tear gas grenades.  

Ahead of an additional meeting on the security situation set for Monday, Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has been asked to give an opinion on whether to allow the police to follow the same open fire regulations as the army does in the West Bank. Ruger rifles were used in the West Bank during the Second Intifada. They were prohibited for a few years after a number of Palestinian youths were killed by Ruger fire. Today, their use is once again permitted.  

Attendees at Netanyahu's emergency meeting Tuesday said that allowing police to follow these guidelines would only require an internal police adjustment, and not a change in legislation. If, that is, Weinstein okays it.

The IDF says that the permissive West Bank regulations are necessary because of a great number of incidents where Israeli lives are in danger because of firebombs and thrown stones. So far, Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan support police following the same guidelines as part of their fight against Palestinian stone throwers in Jerusalem.   

Netanyahu, who visited the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem Wednesday - the site of the deadly car crash that took place on Sunday after stones were thrown at the vehicle - said that the government would take an even harder line on stone throwers. The policy will change, "not just in Jerusalem and the main routes to [the city]. But also in the Galilee and in the Negev," he said.