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Palestinians face 20 years in prison for throwing stones

Stone-throwing has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance for many years [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 July, 2015

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Israeli parliament passes bill imposing harsh sentences for stone attacks on civilian vehicles, with justice minister calling 20 years in jail a "fitting punishment" for "terrorists".

Israeli MPs have approved a bill to impose harsh punishments for Palestinians throwing stones at civilian vehicles, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

Knesset members voted 69 to 17 late on Monday to accept the bill.

The bill allows for a sentence of up to 20 years in jail for throwing stones or other objects at a civilian vehicle in motion, with the intent of causing harm, and 10 years in prison if intent to endanger was not proven.

Stone-throwers who target police vehicles face five years in prison.

     A stone-thrower is a terrorist ... only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent.
Ayelet Shaked, Israeli justice minister

The bill was originally proposed by former Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni and then promoted by her successor Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party.

"Tolerance toward terrorists ends today," Shaked said. "A stone-thrower is a terrorist and only a fitting punishment can serve as a deterrent and just punishment."

The bill has been branded as racist by Qadura Fares, the head of the advocacy group, the Palestinian Prisoner Club.

"This law is hateful and contradicts the most basic rule that the punishment fit the offence," he said.

Stone-throwing has been a symbol of Palestinian resistance since the first uprising. Many Israeli civilian vehicles driving in the occupied West Bank are attacked by stones.

Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, said the new punishment applies only within the Green Line and will not affect legal proceedings in the West Bank.

Abusive arrests

Human Rights Watch meanwhile yesterday accused Israel of "abusive arrests" of Palestinian children as young as 11 and of using threats to force them to sign confessions.

"Israeli security forces have used unnecessary force to arrest or detain Palestinian children," HRW said in a report giving details of the "abusive arrests" of six children.

"Forces have choked children, thrown stun grenades at them, beaten them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers, and failed to let their parents know their whereabouts" the group added.

In one case, 11-year-old Rashid, who was arrested in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem in November, said officers put a bag over his head, kicked him and verbally abused him in Arabic, according to the rights group.

Rashid was accused of throwing stones during the months of unrest in Jerusalem before and after a deadly July-August war in the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank, 14-year-old Malak al-Khatib was arrested on suspicion of throwing stones at a road used by Jewish settlers.

"Four soldiers beat her with something like a baton until she lost consciousness. While on the ground, they kicked her and one soldier stepped on her neck" HRW quoted her mother as saying. 

Ynet news reported that tensions were high during the discussion on the legislation on Monday.

Joint Arab List MK Jamal Zahalka said: "Imagine we brought both the stone-throwers and those who caused them to throw stones in front of a judge. Who would the judge put in prison? The one who demolished a house, expropriated the land, killed the brother? Or the boy who threw a stone?"

"You are picking on people who are responding to greater wrongs. This is hypocrisy. Those who demolish homes get rewarded, but the boy whose anger is justified is being punished," Zahalka added.

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