Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev pushed back against criticism of police’s open-fire policies on Monday, after the family of an officer who was fatally rammed a day earlier blamed the regulations for his death.
Early Sunday morning, a Palestinian teenager from the West Bank city of Ramallah was allegedly driving a car he had stolen in the Tel Aviv area and was being pursued by police when he ran over Master Sergeant Barak Meshulam at a checkpoint on Route 4, near the city of Ra’anana.
At the officer’s funeral, his widow interrupted Barlev, who oversees the police, and lamented that the open-fire rules led to his death,
“You don’t give them permission to shoot, you aren’t protecting them. They are like sitting ducks,” she shouted through tears.
During a meeting Monday, Lapid told Barlev that he “fully backs police personnel and the other security forces in their fight against crime and terrorism, and greatly appreciates their daily activity on behalf of the security of the citizens of Israel,” according to a statement.
The two “emphasized that there is no change in the rules of engagement for police officers and that every officer is authorized to use lethal force if they feel that they are in a situation where lives are endangered.”
After the incident, the second such deadly ramming in a number of weeks, Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai clarified that officers are permitted to open fire on “anyone who endangers the lives of officers while attempting to break through a checkpoint.”
An unnamed officer at the Kfar Saba station — to which the slain cop belonged — was quoted on Sunday by the Ynet news site as saying: “Until we get permission to shoot in such instances, police officers will continue to be hit and murdered.”
Last month, volunteer police officer Amichai Carmely was killed when he was mowed down by a vehicle at a checkpoint set up to check for drunk drivers in the central city of Rishon Lezion.
Right-wing organizations and politicians have long criticized what they describe as the country’s overly strict open-fire policies, both in the police and military.