Lethal Force Must be Used by Police Only as a Last Resort

Photography: Hussam Abed

Following the shooting incident in Kafr Kana, the Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovich issued a statement explaining that “terrorists who harms civilians shall be killed”. ACRI Attorney Lila Margalit has contacted Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to demand that he clarify that the minister’s comments do not reflect the law, and that lethal use can only be used by police forces as a last resort.




November 9, 2014


Mr. Yehuda Weinstein
Attorney General
Fax No. 02-6467001


Dear Sir,


Re: Minister Aharonovich’s statement that “terrorists who harms civilians shall be killed”


We are writing to express our deep concern in light of last week’s grave remarks by Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich that “terrorists who harms civilians are liable to be killed”. As was reported in the media, these words formed part of the minister’s response to the shooting of a terrorist who carried out a car attack in Jerusalem:

“The actions of the police officer, to pursue and quickly kill the terrorist, is both proper and professional, and thus I would like to see the event resolved. Terrorists who harms civilians shall be killed.”

Without regard to the question of whether lethal force was justified in this particular incident – the Minister’s sweeping statement could be interpreted as giving a green light to the use of lethal force even when the law does not justify such an action.

The law regulating the use of lethal force by police officers is clear: lethal force can only be used as a last resort, when there are no other means by which to neutralise a serious threat (486/88 Ankonina v Chief Military Prosecutor, Judgment (2) p. 353 (1990)). Even then, as a rule, there is an obligation to take measures to ensure the reasonable use of force, “and finally, only at that point, can a target be deliberately fired upon, yet there is an expectation that the extent of physical injury be minimised so much as possible.” (p. 375).

A command to kill a terrorist when it is not necessary in order to neutralise the present threat is a manifestly illegal order that must not be obeyed. (HCJ 4668/01 Sarid v Prime Minister, Judgment (2) 265 (2001) (“Bus 300 affair”)).

There is no need to reiterate the importance of the actions of law enforcement agencies to thwart terrorist attacks that endanger human life. However, the expectations raised by the Minister’s remarks – that police officers will act as jury, judge and executioner, is improper and unacceptable, and is liable to lead to murder or manslaughter charges against police officers.

The fear that the minister’s unacceptable attitude would be internalised by police forces was realised this weekend when police shot and killed 22 year old Khir Hamdan in Kafr Kana on Saturday. The incident is currently being investigated, but a video has been published in the media that raises suspicions, to put it mildly, that the police officers did not act according to the regulations that require lethal force to be used as a last resort.

In light of the aforementioned, and regardless of the measures adopted by the internal police inquiry, we request your immediate intervention to clarify – both to Minister Aharonovich and Israel Police – that the minister’s comments do not reflect the law. We also ask that you instruct the Police Commissioner to issue an urgent clarification on the matter that reinforces the applicable regulations to all those serving in police ranks.




Lila Margalit, Adv.
Association for Civil Rights in Israel


MK Yitzhak Aharonovich, Minister of Public Security

Mr. Yohanan Danino, Police Commissioner



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Categories: East Jerusalem, Democracy and Civil Liberties, Due Process, Police and Security Guards

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