U.S. Protests Policy Permitting Israelis to Fire on Firebombers

The State Department has criticized Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s pronouncement Monday that civilians may open fire on Palestinians who are seen with firebombs.

“We believe that Israeli civilians should not be given the authority to maintain law and order,” department spokesman Charles Redman said Tuesday. “That requires proper training and is the province of the police authority.”

“We have also made clear our position that lethal force should be used only when necessary,” said Redman. He added, “We are very disturbed by the continuation of violence in Israel for over seven months. We again call on Israelis and Palestinians to exercise restraint and avoid confrontation.”

Rabin announced the policy Monday in the aftermath of an upsurge in incidents involving the throwing of Molotov cocktails at civilians.

In one of the most serious incidents Sunday night, three firebombs were hurled from the roof of one of Tel Aviv’s most popular shopping malls, on Dizengoff Street. Thought no one was injured in the attack, the incident alarmed Israelis accustomed to hearing about firebombings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but not in major metropolitan areas.

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