Israeli police under scrutiny for shooting knife-wielding assailants


In the last few weeks, Israeli security forces haven't hesitated to use live rounds to take down multiple knife-wielding assailants, with numerous such cases captured on amateur videos and uploaded to social media networks.

When these videos have been published, the Israeli authorities’ response has always been the same: “If the assailant doesn’t obey the police’s orders to drop the knife, they are authorised to shoot him,” says Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. “And if police officers believe their lives or the lives of civilians are in danger, it is absolutely necessary for them to shoot the attacker, at the risk of killing him.”

So is the use of live ammunition justified? We took a close look at three cases, and asked the opinion of a French security consultant who has worked with the French authorities.


Case #1

Two pieces of footage that show the police response to an alleged knife attack on October 3 in East Jerusalem have sparked widespread indignation, with critics accusing security forces of carrying out an extrajudicial killing. The videos show an Israeli policeman firing seven times at Fadi Alloun, a 19-year-old Palestinian. They claim that he had stabbed an Israeli youth.

Two different videos of the scene were posted online.

The first video, which was published online the very next day, shows Israelis following and yelling at a young man who is briskly walking away on tramway tracks. He starts heading towards a police car, but an officer shoots him seven times. It's impossible to see from the images whether or not the youth is armed.

The second video was uploaded on October 11 and gives a clearer picture of what happened. The young Palestinian can be seen walking down the tramway tracks. Amongst the Israelis following him, voices can be heard crying out: "Kill him! Kill him!" At 0:17, the Palestinian appears to lunge at a group of Israelis with an object before drawing back. He crosses the tramway tracks, before again waving the object - possibly a knife - at two police officers at 0:34. One officer aims his gun at the Palestinian whilst men in the crowd shout: "What are you doing with pepper spray?" "Shoot him!" Then, a police car arrives. As he heads for the vehicle, an officer jumps out of the car and shoots him seven times.

Here’s what the security consultant had to say:

"As a general rule, in a self-defense situation, you can use firearms to counter an attacker using a knife as soon as the life of a police officer or a third party is directly and imminently threatened."

So did Fadi Alloun pose an immediate threat?

"It seems that the youth keeps walking towards the officers despite their warnings. He doesn't pose an immediate threat, but the deteriorating security situation, with the civilians all around, could explain the police’s reaction."

Case #2

This video shows police responding to a woman armed with a knife on October 9 in the town of Afula, in northern Israel. Officers shot the woman, who was accused of stabbing an Israeli soldier, at point blank range. The footage shows police officers frantically ordering her to drop the knife that she's holding in her right hand. Although she doesn't comply, she's still a few metres away from the agents holding her at gunpoint. As such, she doesn't seem to pose an immediate threat. Yet at 0:29 they open fire, shooting her eight times.

Israeli police say the woman was sent to hospital in a serious condition after being injured in the legs.

תיעוד השניות הדרמטיות של ההשתלטות על המחבלת בעפולה. לפרטים נוספים על האירוע >> http://bit.ly/1jgQoOX

Posted by ‎חדשות 10‎ on Friday, October 9, 2015

The security consultant’s opinion:

"Here, there doesn't seem to be any case to be made for self-defence. The attacker should have been brought under control without the use of firearms. That's unless the assailant is thought to be carrying explosive material on top of a knife."

Case #3

This video shows how police responded to another Palestinian knife attack in East Jerusalem. Border guards are seen carrying out an identity check next to the Damascus Gate, when suddenly a youth hurls himself onto one of the guards and slashes him with a knife. A dozen officers open fire on the young Palestinian. In the panic and confusion that follows, police officers mistakenly shoot a colleague, leaving him seriously injured. According to Israeli media, the attacker himself died instantly.

#WatchIsrael executed Muhammed AliThree IOF harass, then 9 soldiers execute, Palestinian young man.On Saturday, 10 October 2015, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) detained several Palestinians at Bab al-Amoud (Damascus Gate) in Occupied Jerusalem, and lined them for identification.In this video which was recorded by CCTV, three IOF soldiers stood near the Palestinian victim, clearly harassing him. In response, he attacked the IOF harasser with an object, but 9 IOF soldiers directly opened fire against the Palestinian young man, who was later identified as martyr Muhammed Ali. #شاهدفيديو يُظهر الشهيد "محمد علي" أثناء دفاعه عن نفسه بعد أن تعرض لمضايقات عند باب العامود بالقدس قبل يومين#Zionist #false_Gods #Kabalah #Vodo_State_of_Israel #Gang #IFPS #CCTV #NHK #CNS #APS #BNA #AVN #SAPA #AA #Cihan #AsiaNews #Adnkronos #cnn #abc #channel4 #apartheid #Muhammed_Ali#Gaza #AlAQSA #Palestine#المسجد_الأقصى_يشتعل #شاهد #لن_يقسم

Posted by Shehab News Agency on Monday, October 12, 2015

The security expert says that "judging by these images, the use of force on the grounds of self-defense seems entirely justified."

Amnesty International's condemnation

Human rights groups like Amnesty International accuse Israeli authorities of using excessive force. In a recent press release, the rights group urged officials to "make public" the rules of engagement for firearms under which the police and army operate, including in East Jerusalem. The NGO also called on Israel to "instruct both police and army personnel to only make use of live rounds, notably .22 calibre, in cases where it is impossible to protect oneself from immediate death or serious injury. Each time force is used it must be done so only when absolutely necessary, used proportionately, and for a legitimate reason in accordance with international law."

Since the beginning of October, stabbing attacks have been targeting Israelis on an almost daily basis. Fears are growing that a third bloody intifada could break out, after the first in 1987 and another in 2000 left thousands dead. Five Israelis and 26 Palestinians - including presumed attackers - have died in the bloodshed of the past two weeks.