Chief rabbi: Israeli soldiers have religious duty to kill
Sephardic rabbi Yitzhak Yosef urged Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinians armed with knives and not "to be concerned by the scrutiny of the high court or the army chief of staff," reported Israeli daily Haaretz.
Yosef's comments come after the head of the armed forces called on Israeli soldiers to not use excessive firepower when combating a wave of Palestinian violence.
General Gadi Eisenkot angered some right-wing Israeli politicians in remarks he made last month that were interpreted as advocating a more measured approach to attackers.
"When there's a 13-year-old girl holding scissors or a knife and there is some distance between her and the soldiers, I don't want to see a soldier open fire and empty his magazine at a girl like that," the general had said.
But the chief rabbi stressed that "assailants" must be deterred by death.
"The moment a terrorist knows that if he comes with a knife he won't return alive, that will deter them. That's why it's a mitzvah [commandment] to kill him," the Israeli rabbi said.
|Sephardic chief rabbi Yitzhak Yosef says it is a religious imperative to kill Palestinian 'assailants'[Getty]
Yosef's remarks were in reply to a question on whether it is acceptable to kill Amalekites [the enemy of Hebrews] on the Jewish Sabbath, a day of prayer.
"If some terrorist comes to me now, and I know he's a terrorist," Yosef said, "He doesn't have a knife in his hand, he doesn't have anything," it is not permitted to kill him on a Sabbath.
But "put him in prison, [and] after Sabbath say a blessing and kill him," the rabbi advised.
The UN and human rights groups have voiced concern that Israeli security forces are responding to attacks with excessive force.
Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom called for investigations into the deaths of Palestinians accused of stabbings to determine whether Israeli forces were guilty of "extra-judicial killings."
Israel denies the charges and claims that a Palestinian campaign of incitement is fuelling the violence.
Palestinians say attacks are rooted in frustration stemming from nearly five decades of Israeli military occupation.
At least 194 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since October, 41 of them under the age of 18.
Twenty-eight Israelis and five foreign civilians have been killed in the same period.
Agencies contributed to this report.