Israeli police, long targeted by Palestinian protesters who throw rocks at them in Jerusalem and the West Bank, are now equipped with sniper rifles to shoot the rock throwers. The decision to give police this power is one that prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been considering since early September.
According to The Guardian, the prime minister’s cabinet was concerned about an increase in stone-throwing and even firebombs, frequently by minors. A cabinet statement at the time said: “Since the justice system finds it difficult to deal with minors who throw rocks, changes to orders on opening fire towards stone- and petrol bomb-throwers will be examined.” In response, an advocate from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem told the paper: “It seems from the wording to suggest that because the justice system can’t deal with stone-throwers, shoot them.”
The rifles are .22-caliber Rugers, which the government says are non-lethal, and that the police are or will be trained to shoot at people’s legs so as to avoid fatal injuries.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has been using these rifles for more than a decade. The IDF classified the weapon as non-lethal at the start of the intifada, allowing soldiers to use it to thwart stone-throwers and demonstrators, according to Haaretz. It was then reclassified as a lethal weapon in 2001 after Palestinians, including children, were killed using the rifle.