The police opened 7,143 cases involving rock-throwing terror attacks or the use of firecrackers launched at Jewish targets from 2015 until May 2021. In 69% of these cases, there was no suspect or defendant, according to statistics presented to Knesset’s Public Security Committee.
The most common offense reported to the police, 8,200 offenses out of a total of 9,800 terror-related offenses, was throwing a stone at a vehicle. 38% of these incidents took place in the Jerusalem District, and 23% in the Southern District. The year in which the most cases were opened was 2017, and since then the number of cases opened each year has declined, but there has been an increase in indictments.
The data was presented to the Committee on Tuesday during a debate held following a motion for the agenda entitled “The failure to prosecute individuals who throw stones or Molotov cocktails,” submitted by Member of Knesset Ofir Katz (Likud) and Avi Maoz (Religious Zionism).
A researcher from the Knesset’s Research and Information Center presented the statistics and noted that according to the Military Advocate General, between the years 2018 and 2021 the Military Prosecution filed indictments in 70% of the cases it handled in which stone-throwing or firebomb throwing was the primary offense. 34% of the suspects in these cases are minors, which affects the severity of the punishment that is handed down, the researcher explained.
Of the 7,143 cases that were opened from 2015 until May 2021, 6,796 were closed, about 95%. 73% were closed due to “unknown perpetrator,” and the rest were closed due to lack of evidence.
Displeased by the numbers, Katz said that he does not “understand the gap. The punishment for these offenses is a sentence of up to 20 years, and data show there are only 69 court rulings in more than 7,000 cases. That’s less than one percent.”
“48% of the offenders who were prosecuted were given a sentence of up to six months, and 45% were sentenced to less than a year in prison. Stone-throwing is a plague in this country. Punishment must be stiffened,” he demanded.
Maoz agreed and said that “the punishment is too lenient. There are many complaints of incidents but nothing is done. Police deterrence must be restored through the orders police officers are given. The job of Israel Police is to enforce sovereignty all across the country.”
A representative of the State Attorney’s Office tried to explain that they “deal with this severe phenomenon on a daily basis, and we demand harsh punishment. We need evidence. It is not easy for us in the courts either. The punishment we seek is far from what is given.”
“In cases of stone-throwing towards a police officer, we charge the offender with assault of an officer under aggravated circumstances, an offense subject to a maximum sentence of five years. Use of a firecracker carries a sentence of up to three years. If a stone is thrown at a civilian, we charge the offender with assault, which carries a sentence of 3-20 years. We add a racist motive that doubles the punishment. For throwing a stone at a police officer, we demand a sentence of up to two years, if the offender has no criminal record and the officer was not hurt. If the officer is hurt, the punishment we seek exceeds 18 months in prison,” he explained
“Isn’t that too little? A rock can kill,” said MK Itamar Ben Gvir (Religious Zionism), calling to “change the incorrect policy.”
Lt. Col. Matan Solomosh, the military prosecutor in Judea and Samaria, said the Military Prosecution in the region “utilizes all of its resources to prosecute whoever operates to undermine security in the region and endangers lives, including stone throwers and Molotov cocktail throwers. In nearly all of these cases, the Military Prosecution asks that the suspect be held until the completion of the legal proceedings, and appeals for appropriate and deterring punishment.”
Lt. Col. (Res.) Yaron Buskila, secretary-general of Israel’s Defense and Security Forum (“Habithonistim” in Hebrew), said that “in Judea and Samaria, each month there are 250 incidents of stone-throwing towards major traffic routes. Imagine if this were to take place on Highway 1 [route between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv]… The offenders are sent by someone, they are funded, in some cases by leftist organizations. All of these incidents are orchestrated. A stone is a weapon.”
These attacks occur in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria on a daily basis. While most attacks end without bodily harm, many do end with significant damage and emotional injury.
In 2021, Arab terrorists carried out some 6,700 terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria alone, of which 61 were shootings, 18 were stabbings, about 1,100 were fire bombings, and about 5,600 were rock-throwing attacks, a sharp increase over the numbers in recent years, according to data recently published by the IDF in December.