Israel Authorizes Use of Snipers Against Rioters Posing Lethal Threat
Fine-tuning their response to the worst outbreak of violence in years in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have authorized the use of snipers against rioters posing lethal threats and have reportedly limited the number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, the current focus of the Arab unrest.
According to security officials, there have been more than 5,000 incidents of rock throwing so far this year in the city, the great bulk of them involving Arab youths targeting Israeli cars in East Jerusalem and Israeli homes bordering Arab neighborhoods. There have also been several hundred incidents involving firebombs thrown at vehicles and homes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared last week that harsh steps would be taken to deal with the problem.
“Rocks and firebombs are weapons that kill,” he said. A Jewish resident of Jerusalem was killed this month when a rock was thrown through his windshield causing him to drive off the road and hit a pole.
A police request to employ sniper rifles against rioters targeting Israeli civilians was approved last week by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein who set strict limits to their use.
Until now, the weapon, a .22 Ruger American, has been used on occasion in the West Bank but not in Jerusalem. One official said that when undercover forces sometimes entered a village or neighborhood at night, the Ruger was used to shoot out streetlights. It has also been used there in rock throwing incidents. The rifle is said to be highly accurate at long range and low-powered. Police officers said it will be used only by sharpshooters who have undergone training at the National Police Academy. Their object will not be to kill, officials said, but to wound in the legs.
The attorney general said that the weapon is not to be used against demonstrators protesting vocally, only at those wielding rocks and firebombs in circumstances where civilian lives are in danger.