The Israel Police will be expanding their use of firearms against stone-throwers in the south of the country, as authorities struggle to contend with the rise of riots and violence. Legal and police sources say that the decisions on how to deal with stone-throwers in Jerusalem will also be applied to rioters in the south, particularly those who throw stones at vehicles.
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The issue was raised after several recent instances of Bedouin youth throwing stones at cars driving on Route 31 near Dimona, and the roads near Arad, Rahat, and Segev Shalom. Until now, the Southern District police have been limited to using crowd-dispersal equipment and arresting stone-throwers if possible.
Police will now be allowed to use the Ruger .22-caliber rifles, which are generally not lethal. They will be used only in cases where stone-throwers pose a risk to passengers in vehicles, and perpetrators will be shot only in the legs.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved the use of Ruger rifles by the police following the violent events involving stones and firebombs being thrown at cars and homes in Jerusalem. The permit was obtained at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who asked that policemen be given additional mechanisms to deal with stone-throwers.
The Ruger rifle has been used by the Israeli Defense Forces for 20 years. It was first introduced to shoot out street lights to during undercover operations, and later in demonstrations to prevent the throwing of stones, firebombs and explosive devices. The attorney general has not changed the police’s rules of engagement against demonstrators, instead focusing on cases where stone-throwers put drivers and passengers at risk.
The security discussions about stone-throwers have not addressed protests in Tel Aviv, where demonstrators often throw stones at policemen, nor ultra-Orthodox protests against the draft or desecration of Shabbat, which often result in policemen being wounded by stones. The current decision limits the use of the Ruger to instances of stones being thrown at vehicles or people’s homes.
The police will begin training the force in the use of the Ruger rifle shortly. Sharpshooters will undergo training at the National Police Academy in Beit Shemesh. They will practice shooting and resetting the telescopic sight mounted on the weapon to ensure that it is used properly and avoid legal problems that could result from misuse.