New Regulations Allow Israel Police to Respond to Stone-throwing, Firecrackers With Live Fire
Jack Khoury, Haaretz, Jul 5 2016
Israel Police are now permitted to fire live bullets as a first resort against people throwing stones or incendiary devices, including fire crackers, according to open-fire regulations that were loosened last December in light of an upsurge of violence in East Jerusalem. The regulations, which were approved by the attorney general, had been classified. They were revealed on Monday in Lod District Court in response to a petition by Adalah Legal Center for Minority Rights in Israel. Among the new instructions:
A policeman is permitted to open fire at a person who is clearly seen to throw, or is about to throw, an incendiary device … or is about to fire an incendiary device … or is about to fire directly aimed firecrackers, in order to prevent the danger.
The regulations also say that “throwing stones while using a slingshot” is an example of an incident that justifies shooting with live fire. The Israel Police refused to reveal significant parts of the open-fire procedure. Apparently these are regulations regarding the use of Ruger rifles and dealing with crimes classified as security-related. Adalah maintains that as long as the police don’t reveal the regulations in full, the organization intends to demand a court discussion and a decision on the subject. Attorney Mohammed Bassam, who wrote the petition, said:
The new regulations enable police to behave in an unrestrained and criminal manner. The chances that incidents such as stone throwing or firing firecrackers will constitute a danger to life are extremely remote, and there is no question that such incidents can be handled by non-lethal means. But the new regulations refer to such incidents as though they were warlike activities, and grant legitimacy to a quick trigger finger, and by doing so allow Palestinian youths to be wounded and killed. The new regulations are in contradiction to the existing general instructions, which allow the use of lethal weapons only when there is a real fear of harm to a policeman or to others, and there is no other way to prevent such possible harm. It is also clear that the regulations are not directed at stone throwers in general, but were written specifically in reference to Palestinian teens.
Police allowed to shoot stone throwers: Botched redaction reveals rules of engagement
972 Magazine, Jul 5 2016
In accordance with our legal obligation, this article was sent to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. We are not allowed to tell you if (and if, then where) it was indeed censored.
Israel Police revealed its live-fire rules of engagement Monday in response to a court petition filed by civil rights group Adalah. Parts of the document were redacted with a black marker, but was done so sloppily that large parts of the redaction is still readable (all of it with a little manipulation in photoshop). The Israel Police’s rules of engagement and escalation of force regulations, which were secret until Monday, were written and implemented last December, coinciding with increased violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The document dictates when a police officer can draw his or her weapon, when he or she can fire it, and in what manner. The document confirms that police officers are authorized to use live fire against stone throwers and those directing fire-crackers toward officers. The regulations do not, of course, define specific population segments against whom the open-fire regulations are to be used, but according to Adalah attorney Mohammad Bassam:
it is clear that the regulations do not refer to just any stone throwers but that they were written specifically regarding Palestinian youths.
I have written in the past about the restraint Israeli police and military forces exercise when faced with Jewish stone throwers, restraint that is almost non-existent when it comes to Palestinians engaged in the same activity. The document published by Adalah on Monday includes regular rules of engagement, but also includes section that refer to very specific situations and cases. The following is a shortened version of the escalation of force regulations, regulations that outline what an officer should do before drawing an using their weapon:
- Carefully determine whether it is appropriate to activate the procedure.
- Shout in Hebrew, English or Arabic, “Police! Stop or I will shoot!”
- If the suspect does not stop, and after establishing that gunfire does not pose a danger to bystanders or property, fire a warning shot in the air.
- If the suspect still does not stop, aim and fire at the suspect’s legs. Do not under any circumstances fire toward the upper body.
- It is forbidden to shoot a suspect who does not pose a threat, whose hands are in the air, or who has already been wounded by gunfire.
- If the suspect is armed, it is permissible to shoot him.
- If the officer is shooting out of self-defense, it is permissible to skip the above-outlined steps and shoot.
Those are the the “normal” regulations. Attached to it is “Appendix A,” meant for situations involving the throwing of stones, Molotov cocktails and fire-crackers. Approved by the prime minister and attorney general in September 2015, shortly after the outbreak of the current wave of violence, details situations in which officers can ignore the normal escalation of force regulations and simple fire their weapons. The regulation reads:
An officer is permitted to open fire toward a person whom he clearly sees is throwing, or is about to throw a Molotov cocktail, or shoot, or is about to shoot fire crackers at a direct trajectory in order to prevent the danger.
The regulations also allow for the use of live fire with regards to stone throwing when a sling-shot is being used, or stones are being thrown toward moving cars, or from a rooftop. The regulation does not distinguish between various situations of stone throwing or at whom they are being thrown, for example, whether at civilian cars or armored and armed security forces. Bassam, who wrote the petition that ultimately led to the publication of the document, said:
The new regulations allow officers to act in an unchecked and criminal manner. The chances that actions such as stone throwing or shooting of fireworks would present a life-threatening danger are extremely slim and there is no doubt that it is possible to handle such situations using non-lethal means. Nevertheless, the new regulations relate to such actions as if they were acts of war and grant legitimacy to light trigger fingers, thus posing a fatal danger to the lives of young Palestinians. The new regulations contradict existing general guidelines according to which the use of a deadly weapon by officers is permitted only when there is substantiated fear of danger to the life of an officer or other individual, and only if there is no other means by which this danger may be prevented.
As noted earlier, police failed at effectively redacting portions of the document. As a result, we are also able to learn about other situations in which officers are and aren’t permitted to discharge their weapons. For instance, an officer may not shoot at a fleeing vehicle if there is a hostage inside. Officers are also allowed to shoot, without fear of consequence, at somebody they fear is a suicide bomber. Another section, which was withheld entirely from the information handed over to Adalah, which we know from the bad redaction job details police regulations for using 0.22 caliber Ruger rifles, which are widely used by the IDF in the West Bank and have killed a significant number of people despite their “less lethal” or “non-lethal” designation. Adalah says it will continue with its court petition to uncover the remaining, unpublished regulations regarding the use of deadly force.