Hebron Brigade Commander Denounces Military Judge for Calling Stone-throwing a Mere 'Prank'

Col. Avi Baluth was referring to a military court decision acquitting four Palestinians of attempted murder in a 2010 stone-throwing incident that severely injured a 12-year-old girl.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Hebron Brigade Commander Col. Avi Baluth came out Thursday against the recent declaration by a military judge that throwing stones at cars isn’t necessarily a lethal act and can sometimes constitute no more than a prank.

“I’m not criticizing the ruling and I haven’t read the ruling,” Baluth told Army Radio. “But to call stone-throwing a prank is a very bad choice of words. If the court used those words, then the people of Israel, and particularly the residents of Judea and Samaria, can relax: That’s not the approach of the Israel Defense Forces and particularly not of the Judea Brigade and the Judea and Samaria Division.”

Baluth was referring to a military court decision handed down in December, and publicized earlier this week in Haaretz, in which Military Judge Maj. Amir Dahan acquitted four Palestinians of attempted murder. The defendants, who were found guilty of throwing stones at a car on Route 505 in September 2010, were convicted of stone-throwing, a significantly lesser charge.

In the 2010 incident, one rock − 12 centimeters wide and 19 centimeters long − shattered the windshield of a car and struck a 12-year-old girl, breaking her skull. She required surgery and to this day suffers severe headaches.

“Throwing stones is a violation of varying seriousness depending on the circumstances,” Dahan wrote. “It could be a serious and fatal crime that definitely puts human life at risk, or it could be a prank with no potential for harm committed by a youngster who has barely passed the age of criminal responsibility.”

According to Dahan, the considerations used to determine the extent of the crime include potential risk, the degree of planning, and the use of accessories. Dahan said the court must also consider whether the rock struck a person or a vehicle, and the potential for damage. In addition it must take into account the distance from which the stone was thrown, the size of the stones, and their mass, he said.

“Both the expectations and intent needed to lead to a conviction of a more serious crime demand a higher probability of death,” wrote Dahan. “Unfortunately, hundreds of cases of stone-throwing at vehicles are brought before the military court every year. They rarely lead to injury, and it is extremely rare for it to cause the death of the driver or one of the passengers. Therefore it is impossible to determine that hurling stones at a moving car would naturally result in the death of the driver or any of the passengers, in the absence of extreme or special circumstances that strengthen that probability.”

In the Army Radio interview, Baluth also discussed the recent escalation of violence in the West Bank, saying, “We are seeing a period of escalation, and I must say that the gasoline vapors around Hebron are thicker. I don’t think we’ll get to a third intifada but we are prepared for that as well.”

He added, “We see a direct empirical connection between the cost of living and [West Bank residents'] motivation to create disturbances. Our assumption is that satisfied residents who live well are less likely to want to take to the streets.”

A Palestinian protester throwing stones during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Hebron after Jaradat's funeral, Feb. 25, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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