Eight Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed so far this year by the Ruger rifle, a semi-automatic weapon regularly used as a crowd-dispersal tool by the Israeli army, in an increase from a single death last year, according to Defense Ministry statistics.

Most of the casualties occurred during May’s outbreak of fighting between Hamas and Israel, Defense Minister Benny Gantz's office stated.

Twelve Palestinians were killed by Ruger rifles in the West Bank from 2016 through 2021 according to the data, which was released in response to a parliamentary question by lawmaker Gaby Lasky.

But these statistics relate only to what the army terms “disturbances of the peace,” demonstrations or clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, and don’t include any Palestinians killed by the Border Police, or any killed by the army along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, even though the Ruger is also used to disperse demonstrations there.

The rifle is also used against Palestinians who try to enter Israel illegally through breaches in the separation fence: Between October and December 2019 alone, 10 Palestinians were wounded by Ruger fire while trying to cross the fence.

“The Ruger rifle is a deadly weapon that can kill,” Lasky said. “Despite this, the army uses it as a crowd-control tool, without the state even publishing the rules of engagement.”

Though Gantz declined to divulge details regarding the rules of use, stating that they were classified, he said that the guidelines for using the rifle were identical to those that govern the use of other weapons that fire live rounds. He also declined to release statistics on nonfatal injuries caused by the sniper rifle, saying the defense establishment doesn’t have this information.

In response to a freedom of information request submitted by Haaretz via the Hatzlacha organization, the army said that data on use of the Ruger is included in its classified daily operational reports. The army refused to release the information on the grounds that collecting it would be too much work, requiring an examination of every report individually.

The army later said that the guidelines regarding the use of the Ruger rifle have not changed in recent years, and match those of other weapons that fire live rounds. They added that these are classified for security reasons.