The Knesset Economy Committee voted on Tuesday to permanently ban the import of the types of fireworks used by Palestinian protesters in their clashes with Israeli security services.
The vote was initiated by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who said that it was "an additional step in the gamut of measures we are taking in order to act against terror in Jerusalem, in particular, and Israel as a whole."
"The Palestinians aim these fireworks directly at the security services, which endangers lives," Erdan said. "Therefore, I have acted to change open-fire orders with the aim of enabling the security forces to deal with those who use firecrackers, in addition to banning their import."
Experiments with the firecrackers have shown that they can cause serious and even fatal injuries when of a sufficient velocity and fired at close range, the committee was told.
Thousands of fireworks have been fired at policemen, several of whom have been injured, according to estimates compiled last year. Some of the injured have been burned, while others have suffered from burst ear drums. Three have apparently lost their hearing in one ear.
The government increased the penalty for illegal use of fireworks to 10 years imprisonment last year, but that has not prevented them becoming a favorite weapon of Palestinian protesters – second only to stones.
Unlike other types of weapons, the fireworks are not smuggled into Jerusalem and the West Bank. They enter via Ashdod port. The police believe that most are sold to Palestinians by Israelis who import them legally.
Police and the ministry distinguish between small fireworks used in birthday parties, which are not regarded as dangerous, and those of between 20 and 40 mm, which are regarded as the most dangerous in the hands of lawbreakers.
Larger fireworks, of 300 mm or more, are used in professional firework displays and their import and export are strictly controlled.
By law, a special permit is required to import the larger fireworks. There are less than 10 importers with such permits in Israel and about 600 approved professional firework operators (and twice the number of unapproved operators, according to estimates.)
Operators can purchase fireworks in any quantity but are forbidden from keeping them in storage. Police suspect that the fireworks that end up with the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the territories are the products of black market sales.