Israeli law enforcement officials will now be able to open live fire on stone-throwers "when the life of a third person is threatened". The scope of the law has been extended after an Israeli motorist died earlier this month as a consequence of Palestinian stone-throwing.
The decision was taken by Israel's security cabinet on 24 September after prime minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu vowed to "use all necessary means" to stop such incidents. A statement read: "The security cabinet has decided to authorise police to use live ammunition against people throwing stones and Molotov cocktails when the life of a third person is threatened and no longer only when the police officer is threatened".
The "temporary" order will stay in effect for three years and sets a four-year minimum sentence for those who launch stones and firebombs. The sentencing would only apply to adult perpetrators, but leaves a loophole allowing judges to stray from the minimum sentencing if they can justify it. The parents of children aged 14 to 18 who throw rocks will lose their financial stipends from the government. The cabinet is also exploring options to fine the parents of children younger than 14 who pelt rocks.
"We have decided to penalise more severely adult stone-throwers with a minimum sentence of four years in prison and also to authorise larger fines for minors and their parents," the statement said. "These sanctions apply to all Israeli citizens and residents of Israel," it said, referencing Palestinians residing in east Jerusalem who do not hold Israeli citizenship.
A statement released by Netanyahu's office said: "We intend to change the norm that has become established ... that the state of Israel allows these deadly and murderous objects to be thrown without response and without being thwarted."
"Until recently, police officers would open fire when their own lives were at risk," Netanyahu said. "From now on, they will be allowed to open fire – and they will know they have a right to do so – when anyone's life is in danger." In 2014, 12 Palestinian minors were shot and killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations in the West Bank.
Earlier this week (22 September), Hadeel al-Hashlamon an 18-year-old Palestinian student, was shot dead by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in Hebron. Although she was in possession of a knife, Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem said the soldiers "did not try to subdue al-Hashlamon and take her into custody without resorting to live fire", raising concerns over the broader remit given to Israeli security forces for the use of live ammunition over stone throwing.
"Time and again, we have documented that Israeli forces in the West Bank unlawfully killed Palestinians who posed no threat to life, including children, and yet no one was held accountable," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch told IBTimes UK. "Loosening the open-fire policies of Israeli police, along with moves to increase jail sentences and imprison children, risk deepening the injustice and adding to the death toll."