Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his security officials to consider changing rules which govern when soldiers can shoot Palestinian stone throwers, according to Wednesday reports.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office revealed that the Israeli leader was considering loosening restrictions for the use of live ammunition against stone-throwing protesters after meeting with his cabinet to discuss an upsurge in the number of stone- and firebomb-throwing incidents in Jerusalem and on the West Bank in recent months.
"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," the statement said, according to Reuters. At the meeting, Netanyahu reportedly told his cabinet that he would adopt a policy of "zero tolerance towards stone-throwing and zero tolerance towards terror."
In the same meeting, Netanyahu ordered the reinforcement of a key road where there have been several incidents of stone-throwing in recent months. The road, Route 443, runs through the occupied West Bank.
The statement was condemned by Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. “This rightist Israeli fanatic government is pursuing its criminal policy to kill Palestinians. The new regulations would mean more escalation, killings and crimes against our people,” he told Reuters.
In July, Israel passed tougher security laws that impose penalties of up to 20 years in prison for throwing rocks at vehicles, after a spate of Palestinian stone-throwing protests in occupied East Jerusalem. The tougher measures were condemned by the United Nations, who said that the law, along with another policy to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike, risked worsening an "already-precarious human rights situation."
Peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have been stalled since July 2014, when Israel launched an offensive into Hamas-controlled occupied territory.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem lists 12 Palestinian minors who were shot dead by Israeli security forces during incidents in the West Bank in 2014. It said that the youths had been throwing rocks or petrol bombs in at least four of those cases.
Calls for tougher punishments against stone throwers mounted after a video was posted last week that showed a masked Israeli soldier being hit and bitten by relatives of a Palestinian boy, accused of throwing stones, who the soldier had in a headlock.