Israel Relaxes Open-fire Regulations Allowing Soldiers to Shoot at Suspected Weapon Thieves

The expansion of the regulations is aimed mainly at army training bases due to many cases of theft that occur there

Troops train at the Tze’elim base in the Negev in southern Israel.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israeli army relaxed on Sunday its open-fire regulations, announcing that from now on soldiers may also open fire in cases where they identify the theft of weapons or explosives. The opening of fire will be carried out according to the military's protocol for apprehending suspects.

According to the army's instructions, approved by the military advocate general, soldiers in such cases will be able to open fire – to the point of shooting toward the feet of the suspect – only in areas defined by order as a closed military zone.

The expansion of the open-fire regulations is aimed mainly at army training bases due to many cases of theft that occur in such places. According to a senior officer, the army will instruct soldiers to carry out the protocol for apprehending suspects only in the case of suspected theft of weapons or explosives, and not in other cases of theft.

"Until now, soldiers were unable to open fire in such cases of theft because they took place in areas [not designated as closed military zones], a fact exploited by the thieves. They tried to put their hands on them, to chase them – but didn’t manage to do so. There were instances where they identified weapon theft – and couldn’t do anything," the officer said. "The intention is [for cases] of the suspected carrying out of a dangerous crime, of stealing firearms. If he [the soldier] doesn’t know that it's such a suspicion, he won't open fire."

The officer emphasized that the directive won't apply in urban areas but only in places defined by special order as a closed military zone, such as training areas. Such areas are subject to decisions made by officers with the rank of major general, who can prohibit the movement of civilians there.

The new directive will come into effect as of Sunday, and was reached against the backdrop of complaints by many reservists regarding the situation in the Tze’elim base in the Negev, which is considered a significant target for thieves. In 2012, Haaretz reported that the IDF invested 7 million shekels to safeguard the base against metal and property thieves. The sum was designated for the establishment of a "smart" fence that gives off an alert when touched and for the positioning of radars and CCTV cameras around the base and in the large parking lots near it.