Israel security forces 'must shoot to kill', minister says amid uproar over civilian shot by soldier

Israel security forces 'must shoot to kill', minister says amid uproar over civilian shot by soldier
The killing of an Israeli civilian by an off-duty soldier last week has inflamed dispute in Israel over lax gun controls and the use of lethal force against people even suspected of being Palestinian.
3 min read
04 December, 2023
Israeli soldiers and security forces must shoot to kill suspected attackers to deter future attacks, the country's heritage minister said [Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty-file photo]

An Israeli minister has said the country's security forces must continue to shoot to kill, despite domestic uproar over an off-duty soldier's killing of an Israeli man who intervened in an attack in Jerusalem last week.

"We must get to a point of dead checking, we must get to terrorists being killed and deterred," heritage minister Amichai Eliyahu, from the far-right Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party, told Israeli news outlet Ynet on Monday.

"When your life is in danger, you shoot to neutralise - those who served in the army know the rules."

The comments followed the killing of Yuval Castleman, an Israeli who had shot at Palestinians committing an attack in Jerusalem that killed three people.

Israeli police said Castleman was shot and killed by one of two off-duty Israeli soldiers who mistook him for one of the attackers.

This was despite video now widely circulated on social media showing Castleman throwing the gun he fired at the attackers with aside, raising his hands, and shouting "Don't shoot" as the soldiers approached him.

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The incident shocked some Israelis, and outrage was made worse when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the killing should not dissuade his government from its policy of encouraging Israelis to carry weapons.

"I think that in the current situation we need to continue with this policy — I definitely support it. We may pay a price, but such is life," Netanyahu said over the weekend.

The Israeli premier has since spoken to Yuval Castleman's father, and labelled the killed Israeli a "victim". Eliyahu also called Castleman a "hero" when he spoke to Ynet, and said his death was "unfortunate".

Eliyahu, is one of several far-right ministers in Netanyahu's government, including Itamar Ben-Gvir. He previously suggested that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was "an option".

15,500 people have been killed in a ferocious and indiscriminate Israeli assault on Gaza in less than two months. 

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Ben-Gvir, who heads the national security ministry, came under fire last week for cutting corners when it came to hiring staff tasked with issuing Israelis with gun permits.

Hundreds or even thousands of conditional gun permits had been handed out to Israelis by clerks hired by the ministry who had no legal authorisation to issue them, Haaretz reported Thursday, citing security officials.

"They’re handing out guns like candy.... There’s almost no oversight in the ministry," Haaretz quoted one senior security official as saying.

The head of the ministry's firearms division, Yisrael Avisar, resigned Sunday.

Avisar had reportedly rolled over to Ben-Gvir's demands while at the helm of the division, including the hiring of unauthorised staff.

Ben-Gvir has pushed for restrictions on gun ownership to be loosened since he became national security minister early this year.