Leading Israeli officials have been encouraging soldiers and police officers to kill Palestinians suspected of attacks regardless of whether lethal force is necessary, according to a new report by a leading human rights organisation.
Human Rights Watch has compiled numerous statements by senior members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration and the country’s police force, which appear to endorse using lethal force against suspects, irrespective of whether anyone is in danger.
International human rights law limits lethal force to circumstances in which it is necessary to protect life, and in which no other less extreme option is available.
“It’s not just about potentially rogue soldiers, but also about senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill,” said Sari Bashi, Israel advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.
“Whatever the results of trials of individual soldiers, the Israeli government should issue clear directives to use force only in accordance with international law.”
The organisation condemned statements made by defence minister Avigdor Lieberman, who as an opposition member of the Knesset in 2015 wrote on his Facebook page that the government should adopt a policy that “no attacker, male or female, should make it out of any attack alive”.
Human Rights Watch also cited statements by Jerusalem Police District Commander Moshe Edri, who after the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old Palestinian suspected of injuring civilians, said all those who are violent towards Jewish people should be killed.
“Within less than a minute and a half, the attacker had already been killed,” he said. “Everyone who stabs Jews or harms innocent people – should be killed.”
In October 2015, after a civil rights group wrote to the Attorney General raising concerns about officials endorsing a shoot-to-kill policy, the office said it had told its security forces to only kill when there is an imminent threat to life.
Yet Human Rights Watch claimed high-ranking officials had continued to support shooting to kill.
Bezalel Smotrich, of the Jewish Home Party, part of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition, said in February: “An attacker who sets out to kill a Jew because he’s a Jew, whatever his age, does not make it out alive. Period.”
And Naavah Boker, from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, said in an interview in April 2016: “A terrorist should simply be killed.”
He quoted a Biblical passage that “whoever comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first”.
Since October 2015 there have been at least 150 instances where security forces have fatally shot Palestinian adults and children suspected of violence against Israelis in Israel and the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Palestinian assailants have killed 33 Israelis, including passersby and security officials, in Israel and the West Bank.
One Israeli soldier in the past year has been prosecuted for shooting a Palestinian. Elor Azaria, 20, is alleged to have killed 21-year-old Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif, a suspected attacker, when he was already badly injured.
The Independent has contacted the Israeli government and police service for comment.
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