Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday broadened the rules under which stone-throwers can be targeted by live fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.
“The security cabinet has decided to authorize police to use live ammunition against people throwing stones and Molotov cocktails when the life of a third person is threatened and no longer only when the police officer is threatened,” a statement said.
Netanyahu publicly “declared war” on Sept. 16 against those who throw rocks and petrol bombs after an Israeli motorist died in a fatal car accident reportedly caused by Palestinian stone-throwing.
The use of .22 caliber bullets — long used as a crowd control method in the occupied West Bank — will be allowed in occupied East Jerusalem in circumstances that Israeli forces determine are life-threatening.
The security cabinet met to decide on measures to strengthen enforcement against demonstrators throwing stones and incendiary devices after police said 13 Palestinians, including nine children, were arrested overnight.
“We have decided to penalize more severely adult stone-throwers with a minimum sentence of four years in prison and also to authorize larger fines for minors and their parents,” the statement said.
“These sanctions apply to all Israeli citizens and residents of Israel,” it said, referring to Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem who do not have Israeli citizenship.
Netanyahu revealed the plan as he visited the site of a car accident that killed 64-year-old Alexander Levlovich, who died in what Israeli officials labelled a nationalistic stoning attack.
“This stone is one too many,” the premier’s office quoted him as saying. “We are declaring war on those who throw stones and bottles, and rioters.”
Critics of the new law question whether the sentencing will be equally implemented for both Palestinians and Israeli Jews.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem, meanwhile, warned last week that the approval of live fire against stone throwers in occupied East Jerusalem would “exacerbate the cycle of violence with lethal results” rather than restore order in the city.
Netanyahu’s statements, while mainly referring to street protests and demonstrations, followed three days of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound over the Jewish new year.
The clashes coincided with increasing tensions in the occupied West Bank. On Thursday, a Palestinian shot and wounded by Israeli troops last week died of his wounds in hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus, relatives said.
Ahmed Khatabteh, 25, was wounded last Friday in Beit Furik, east of Nablus, in clashes in which another 51 Palestinians were wounded.
Khatatbeh’s death brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of 2015 to 26, according to UN documentation.
The number does not include Palestinian deaths caused by Israeli settlers. MAANNEWS