“Israel uses excessive force to respond to children who are just throwing stones.”
Palestinians, young and old, attack Israeli civilians and soldiers with a variety of weapons. When they throw stones, they are not pebbles, but large rocks that can and do cause serious injuries.
Typically, Israeli troops under attack have numbered fewer than 20, while their assailants, armed with Molotov cocktails, pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, hand grenades and explosives, have numbered in the hundreds. Moreover, mixed among rock throwers have been Palestinians, often policemen, armed with guns. Faced with an angry, violent mob, Israeli police and soldiers often have no choice but to defend themselves by firing rubber bullets and, in life-threatening situations, live ammunition.
The use of live-fire by the Palestinians has effectively meant that Israeli forces have had to remain at some distance from those initiating the violence. In addition, the threat of force against Israelis has been a threat of lethal force. Both factors have inhibited the use of traditional methods of riot control.
According to the rules of engagement for Israeli troops in the territories, the use of weapons is authorized solely in life-threatening situations or, subject to significant limitations, in the exercise of the arrest of an individual suspected of having committed a grave security offense. In all cases, IDF activities have been governed by an overriding policy of restraint, the requirement of proportionality and the necessity to take all possible measures to prevent harm to innocent civilians.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians escalated their violent attacks against Israelis by using mortars and anti-tank missiles illegally smuggled into the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have fired mortar shells into Jewish communities in Gaza and Israel proper, and IDF reports indicate that anti-tank missiles have been fired at Israeli forces in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has also been stockpiling weapons smuggled into Gaza by sea and underground tunnels linked to Egypt.
The possession and use of these weapons and other arms by the Palestinians violates commitments they made in various agreements with Israel. Under the Oslo accords, the only weapons allowed in the Palestinian-controlled areas are handguns, rifles and machine guns, and these are to be held only by PA security officers. The recent violence makes clear that in addition to the police, Palestinian civilians and members of militias, such as the Tanzim, also are in possession of such weapons.26
The number of Palestinian casualties in clashes is regrettable, but it is important to remember that no Palestinian would be in any danger or risk injury if they were not waging a terror campaign. If children were in school or at home with their families, rather than throwing rocks in the streets, they too would have little to fear. And children throw more than rocks. Abu Mazen, Yasser Arafat's deputy revealed that children are paid to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel. He told a Jordanian newspaper that "at least 40 children in Rafah lost arms from the throwing of Bangalore torpedoes [explosive charges]. They received five shekels [approximately $1.00] in order to throw them."27
Also, while the number of Palestinians who have died is greater than the number of Israelis, that should not minimize the traumatic loss of life on the Israeli side. From September 29, 2000, through June 7, 2005, 1,061 Israelis, including more than 730 civilians, were murdered by Palestinians. Contrary to Palestinian assertions that they are fighting a war against armed forces, fewer than one-third of the Israelis that have been killed were soldiers. In 2004, Palestinians successfully carried out 15 suicide attacks and Israeli security forces thwarted 367 others.28
It is also worth considering how police in the United States and other nations react to mob violence. Abuses do sometimes occur when police are under attack, but no one expects them to stand by and allow their lives to be put in danger to assuage international opinion. In fact, the Palestinian Authority itself does not hesitate to use lethal force against protestors. For example, after the U.S. coalition attacked Afghanistan, Hamas organized a rally in the Gaza Strip in which thousands of Palestinians marched in support of suspected terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Palestinian police killed two protestors when they tried to break it up.29
It is only Israelis who are denied their right to self-defense or see it used as a propaganda weapon against them.