(JTA) — The mayor of Jerusalem said police should use live ammunition on young Palestinian rock throwers and firebombers in the city.
In an interview with the Times of Israel Wednesday, Mayor Nir Barkat declared “war” on the Palestinian protesters and said Israel had been “too merciful” with them. In a related development, Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Thursday approved use of the Ruger rifle by police against certain rock throwers in Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The Israel Defense Forces had been allowed to use Ruger rifles to contain violence in the West Bank, but police in Jerusalem had been prohibited from using them in such situations.
Both announcements follow the death earlier this week of Jerusalem resident Alexander Levlovitch following a rock attack on his car Sunday night in a Jewish neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem caused him to swerve into a telephone pole.
Barkat, who has been mayor since 2008, said “the punishment must be dramatically increased” so that the young people throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks know that they will “pay a heavy price.”
Parts of Jerusalem’s East Talpiot-Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, where Levlovitch was killed, have been under constant nightly attack for the past year, according to the Times of Israel.
“Throughout the last few years, even when police used to catch teenagers throwing stones, they were very, very quickly released by the courts,” Barkat said. “And so they gained confidence.”
Barkat proposed installing new security cameras and more advanced tracking software to provide additional information that would make charges stick against stone throwers.
He said Israel’s new tactics won’t be any harsher than those used in other Western countries.
“In London, in New York, if someone comes with a giant rock, and he’s going to throw it at a police officer or at innocent people, what would they do?” Barkat asked. “What are the open-fire orders for police in New York, in London, when someone tries to throw a rock or even shoot at a police cruiser?”
They shoot them, he declared.
Barkat said the Palestinians engaging in the violence do not represent the majority of Arab residents in Jerusalem and towns surrounding it.
“It’s not Arab villages,” he said. “It’s gangs. It’s young gangs that are using violence in a terrible way.”