Firebomb thrower (file).
Firebomb thrower (file).Reuters

IDF soldiers have been instructed by their commanders to avoid killing terrorists, even if they spot them as they are about to throw a firebomb or rock at a car, reports Yohai Ofer in Makor Rishon. The only time soldiers may shoot to kill are when there is “real danger of loss of life” – but the parameters of this situation are not clearly defined.

The newspaper cited S., a combat soldier who was stationed near Ramallah a few weeks ago, as saying that rocks are not necessarily defined as life-threatening weapons in IDF orders. If the rocks are being thrown at Israeli cars on a main road, soldiers may fire at the legs of the terrorists, and only with the approval of a company commander. In other cases, the company commander is only allowed to authorize firing rubber-coated bullets.

"They want us to hit a knee or two, to achieve deterrence,” S. summed up.

R., another warrior who was recently stationed in the Binyamin area, told the paper that in briefings by commanders at the outset of his battalion's stint, the soldiers were told that the commander of the Regional Regiment, Col. Yisrael Shomer, thinks that an Arab who is killed becomes a martyr, whereas one who is wounded returns home and serves as a warning to others not to engage in terrorism.

These instructions are usually spoken and not written, explains the journalist Ofer.

The former Head of Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, denied in a retirement interview that the IDF was given orders to “contain” terrorism, and other IDF officers claimed that the reports may have stemmed from misunderstandings, but according to Ofer, the testimony of soldiers makes it clear that soldiers are expected to decide on their own, in real time, whether a rock or firebomb that was thrown at a vehicle might kill anyone or not – and only then decide how to respond.

The IDF Spokesman told Makor Rishon that the “claims that the IDF soldiers' hands are tied are baseless. The warriors have a range of means for dealing with popular terror, and the spectrum of open-fire orders is determined on the basis of many considerations, including maintaining stability in the sector. The IDF does all it can to safeguard the wellbeing of the citizens of Israel in general, and of its soldiers in particular.”

The price: Adele and Ayala

Critics of the policy of refraining from use of lethal force against rock and firebomb throwers point to victims of the rampant road terror.

Adele Biton, 4, passed away in February from complications of pneumonia, two years after being critically injured in an Arab rock ambush in Samaria. 

Ayala Shapira, an 11-year-old girl, was critically burned in a firebomb attack by Arab terrorists on the family car she was in with her father outside Ma'ale Shomron in Samaria late last December.