A masked Palestinian teenager throws a stone at Israeli soldiers.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday approved the use of the Ruger American Rifle by police against certain rock-throwers in Jerusalem.
Previously, the IDF was allowed – in certain circumstances – to use a low-powered Ruger sniper rifle to contain violence in the West Bank. But until now police were prohibited from using the weapon in Jerusalem.
The regulation is expected to only apply to more dangerous cases of rock-throwing, although not all of the specifics were made public. The police have also increased checkpoints and brought in reinforcements in unstable areas around the city.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recently announced war on ock-throwing follows a wave of violence by Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Multiple human rights groups complained about the new more aggressive rules of engagement for the Jerusalem police as well as new checkpoints set up around certain east Jerusalem neighborhoods.
“The outcome of legalizing fire on rock-throwers in Jerusalem would be the legalizing of taking Palestinian minors’ blood,” B’Tselem said Thursday.
The human rights group said despite the Ruger’s less lethal character, it could still be deadly or cause serious bodily harm. It added that Weinstein’s decision would “not lead to the result the government is seeking, that of claiming the area, rather the opposite, to deadly outcomes and to widening the circle of violence.”
Honing in on prior incidents in the West Bank, B’Tselem also argued that the use of the Ruger by security forces on the ground has gone beyond the official rules leading to deadly situations, and its use should be reduced, not expanded. B’Tselem said the order contradicted the conclusions of the 2000 Or Commission, which opposed the use of live fire of any kind for crowd control, limiting the use of live fire to instances of imminent danger.
The Or Commission, named for former Supreme Court justice Theodor Or, criticized the police’s response to Israeli- Arab rioting in the North during the second intifada as overly harsh.
It is unclear if the new regulations will aid in reducing the most deadly incidents of rock-throwing, which often involve targeting passing vehicles in areas where no police officers are stationed.
There has been no change to the rules of engagement for the IDF and Border Police.
Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, wrote a letter to Weinstein and other law enforcement officials, slamming what it called “collective punishment” regarding the new checkpoints in some Israeli-Arab neighborhoods.
It noted that 20,000 people living in the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber were “completely closed off” from the rest of the city.
The group said residents’ lives could be endangered if they needed medical attention and faced delays in leaving their neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced several indictments with the Jerusalem District Court against Palestinians for a range of rock-throwing and firebomb attacks in Jerusalem.
All of the defendants were either minors or minors at the time of the crimes, so the full indictments and the names of the defendants are under gag order.
One 19-year-old from Isawiya was charged with causing a serious wound, endangering human life on a roadway, disturbance of the peace, incitement and attempting to attack police with aggravating circumstances. The Justice Ministry said that from 2012-2014, the defendant was involved in eight separate incidents in the Isawiya area, including putting together and throwing firebombs at security forces.
In 2013, the defendant threw firebombs and rocks on cars carrying Jewish passengers on Route 1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim from a mountain top, said the statement.
Also, on Thursday, the Justice Ministry announced it filed an indictment with the Jerusalem juvenile court against three minors, ages 13-15, from an area of Jerusalem’s Old City near the Temple Mount. The three are charged with attempts to cause physical harm under aggravated circumstances, disturbing police under aggravated circumstances and other offenses.
One of the minor defendants is accused of throwing a glass bottle at policemen who stood guard at the Majlis Gate for entering the Temple Mount on August 17.
The statement alleged that in two other instances – on August 18 at 11:30 a.m. and on September 3 at 9 p.m. – the defendants threw rocks at policemen at the entrance to the Temple Mount.
In recognition of the government’s new policy to crack down on rock-throwing, the state has asked for all three minors to be held in detention until the end of the trial against them, despite their young age.
The Knesset also recently passed a law stiffening sentences for certain more deadly rock-throwers and the prosecution may start to seek higher minimum sentences even for less deadly attackers.