Israel’s security cabinet voted unanimously Thursday evening to permit the use of sniper-fire against stone throwers in circumstances where an officer’s life is not at imminent risk. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed the changes and declared the increased measures were a “fight against those who throw rocks and firebombs, and shoot fireworks.”
“Until recently police would open fire only when their own lives were in danger. As of now, they will be permitted to open fire – and they will know that they have the right to open fire – when they face danger to any lives,” Netanyahu said.
In addition to relaxing the regulations on live-fire, Israel also approved harsher punishments for children. Minors aged 14 to 18 will now be sentenced in prison for throwing projectiles and their parents will face fines. Child welfare benefits will also be revoked for convicted children.
A mandatory minimum sentence of four years will be given to adults found guilty of throwing stones or firebombs with a possible maximum sentence of up to 20 years. The security cabinet noted that they will seek legislation in Knesset in order to authorize this maximum sentence.
During the meeting Netanyahu again charged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of “wild incitement,” claiming the Palestinian leader had urged youths to target Israeli police and civilians with stones inside of Jerusalem’s holy compound that houses the al-Aqsa mosque and is buttressed by the Jewish religious artifact, the Western Wall. The complex is one of the most sacred sites in Islam and a growing movement of religious Jews revere the location as it once included a great temple. Israeli extremists aspire to construct a new Jewish house of prayer inside of the compound.
“Israel is strictly maintaining the status quo, Palestinian incitement to the contrary notwithstanding,” Netanyahu told the United Nation’s head Ban Ki-Moon on September 17th.
That same day, following a week of clashes outside of al-Asqa mosque where Israeli police fired tear gas at Palestinian youths who thew rocks and pipe bombs, Abbas warned Pope Francis of increasing Israeli aggression on the Muslim house of prayer. Abbas “expressed the Palestinian concern that Israel is turning a political issue into a religious conflict,” and “The Pope warned against the rising of intolerance and extremism, adding that he is also against turning the situation into a religious conflict,” according to a statement released by the Palestinian government.
Earlier that same week an Israeli man, Alexander Levlovich, 64, was killed after stones were thrown at his car while he drove in an East Jerusalem neighborhood. Following his death Israel’s public security minister announced he would block the promotion of jurists who did not hand out tough sentences for Palestinians on trial for stone throwing. Head of Israel’s high court, justice Mariam Na’or decried the minister’s statement as an infringement on the authority of her bench. “If the executive branch believes that a punishment handed down by the court is too lenient, the appropriate manner in which to oppose it is to appeal,” Na’or wrote in a response.
Netanyahu’s authorization of live-fire and manitory sentences for stone throwers comes just ten-days after the minister’s and judge’s exchange.
Since the beginning of the year 27 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces with live-fire. Yesterday the Israeli military shot and killed both a Palestinian teenage women, 18-year old college student Hadil al-Hashlamon, and a 21-year old Palestinian man.
Palestinian witnesses said al-Hashlamon was fired on while separated from the soldier by a metal barricade and revealed a concealed knife only after being struck. The Israeli military disputes this account, claiming the women threatened soldiers first and set off a checkpoint metal detector. A series of photographs distributed by Issa Amro from the Hebron based activist group Youth Against Settlements show moments before and after the shooting. Al-Hashlamon is pictured clothed in a black abaya with no visible weapon.