Israel approves use of police sniper fire against Palestinian rock-throwers - reports

Israel has approved the use of a low-powered Ruger sniper rifle by police against “certain” rock-throwers in Jerusalem, local press report. Previously use of the weapon to curb violence in the West Bank was limited to the IDF.

As protests against Israel’s dominance over the al-Aqsa Mosque site in the Old City of Jerusalem intensify, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, has accepted a proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the use live sniper fire by police if needed to quell riots on Temple Mount, reported the Jerusalem Post. 

“This is an extremely dangerous escalation on the part of the Israelis. What they are basically saying is that every Palestinian youth stone-thrower, which seem to be the youth under the age of 15 and 16, is an enemy combatant,” Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud told RT.

Also reportedly approved by the Attorney General was the proposal to arrest rock-throwing minors and increase the minimum sentence to 4-5 years in prison – and to at least 10 years for those caught throwing firebombs. The families of those caught clashing with the Israeli police or assaulting Israeli civilians would also face a fine up to 100,000 shekels (US $26,000).

READ MORE: ‘By all means necessary’: Netanyahu vows to stop Palestinian rock-throwers & rioters 

Netanyahu earlier vowed to push through a change in the rules of engagement with the Palestinian youth.

“We decided to change policy and wage war on stone throwers, bottle throwers, firecrackers shooters and those who disrupt the peace – quite simply a change,” Netanyahu said Thursday, as cited by the Times of Israel.

Despite the fact that live rounds have been widely used by the IDF in the West Bank, Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, until now were not permitted to use live ammunition and have used non-lethal measures, such as rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to control the protests.

The changes in the rules of engagement, as PM stated after the emergency meeting with leading defense figures, will be applied on both sides of the Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. “A Molotov cocktail or rock – these kill within the Green Line and over the Green Line,” Netanyahu told reporters.

“This is an extreme measure taken by Israel essentially in line with its violent occupation of the Palestinians in violations of their human rights,” James Petras from Binghamton University told RT.

The Israeli decision came after violent clashes saw a resurgence in the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the past week, as Palestinian youths engaged Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount ahead of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. On Sunday, an elderly Israeli died as a result of a stone-throwing incident.

The new police playbook has been criticized by Israeli politicians and observers alike. Aida Touma-Sliman, an Israeli MP for the Joint Arab List, accused the ruling coalition of “people hunting,” saying that “Netanyahu is apparently looking for a judicial license to kill and to murder.”

“I don't think that there is any country in the world that would actually consider or sanction sniper fire against kids throwing rocks,” Baroud told RT.

Meanwhile, violence on Temple Mount continued Thursday, prompting Israeli police to deploy extra forces for Friday prayers in the compound’s mosque. Several rock and firebomb attacks were reported in parts of Jerusalem Thursday evening, according to local media reports.

To address the growing international concern over the continued violence, Netanyahu spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the phone to tell him that he is adamant to preserve the status quo.

The Temple Mount, one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, was seized by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war. The Temple Mount has a special status under Jordanian custodianship while Israel controls security.