Senior Israeli officials, including religious clerics, back the illegal “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“Some senior Israeli officials have been encouraging Israeli soldiers and police to kill Palestinians they suspect of attacking Israelis even when they are no longer a threat,” the statement said. “Other Israeli officials have failed to repudiate the calls for excessive use of force.”

The statement noted, according to Days of Palestine, that Human Rights Watch had documented numerous statements since October 2015, when the current intifada started, proving its finding.

It said that the statements were delivered by senior Israeli politicians, including the police minister and defense minister, calling on police and soldiers to shoot to kill suspected attackers, irrespective of whether lethal force is actually strictly necessary to protect life.

“It is not just about potentially rogue soldiers, but also about senior Israeli officials who publicly tell security forces to unlawfully shoot to kill,” said Sari Bashi, Israel advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

There have been more than 150 instances, since October 2015, in which security forces fatally shot Palestinian adults and children, some were suspected of trying to stab, run over, or shoot Israelis in Israel and the West Bank.

The organization cited an example of a stabbing attack that injured two Israeli passers-by in West Jerusalem, on 10 October, 2015, noting that the Israeli police fatally shot the 16-year-old Palestinian suspect.

Commenting on the incident, HRW said, the Jerusalem Police District Commander Moshe Edri told reporters that those who carry out attacks should be killed.

“The police are doing their job and arriving quickly… Everyone who stabs Jews or harms innocent people should be killed,” he said.  HRW says that Edri’s statement appears to be a call to kill all persons who use violence, even after they no longer pose a threat.

The rights group said that the Israeli Police Minister Gilad Erdan agreed on a statement made by an Israeli lawmaker from an opposition party that, “if a terrorist has a knife or screwdriver in his hand, you should shoot to kill him without thinking twice.”

Erdan said yes: “Definitely… Every attacker who sets out to inflict harm should know that he will likely not survive the attack.”

The American-based organisation also reported that the Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who holds the state-funded, statutory position of Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, called in a 12 March 2016 sermon that the Bible authorizes a shoot-to-kill policy.

“‘Whoever comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first,’” he said. “Let them, afterward, take you to the High Court of Justice or bring some military chief of staff who will say something else … As soon as an attacker knows that, if he comes with a knife, he won’t return alive, it will deter them. That’s why it’s a religious commandment to kill him.”

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