Israel police exhausted weapons stockpiles on Palestinian protestors

Palestinians stage a demonstration at Damascus Gate in Old City in Jerusalem (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  July 15, 2021

Israel Police was days away from exhausting its stockpiles of weapons in May during its brutal clampdown of protestors, an internal investigation has found. Weapons are said to have depleted to dangerous levels prompting a cry of help from the military to replenish the stockpiles.

A comprehensive internal investigation was ordered by police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai into the performance of the police during the confrontations that erupted in occupied Jerusalem and in mixed Israeli towns in May, including Lod [Lydda], Jaffa, Umm al-Fahm, Taybeh and Baqa al-Gharbiyye. Arab citizens of Israel rose up in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza where the besieged population was subjected to 11 days of bombardment which killed more than 250 including women and children.

Commentators and eyewitnesses at the time described the violence targeting Palestinians as pogroms as police are said to have stood by while far-right Israeli mobs rampaged through Arab streets. Details of the police investigation cited in Arab media quoted police officers saying that there was “unprecedented violence” which was bigger than Second Intifada. The Second Intifada was a mass popular uprising that erupted in 2000 following a highly provocative visit by the late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

During the crackdown, the police extensively used weapons such as tear gas canisters, sponge bullets and stun grenades, as well as special arsenal to disperse the demonstrators, such as drones and rifles that shoot gas shells.

The investigation found that a combination of the intensity of the violence and the large number of demonstration sites, forced the police to activate emergency measures to recruit all reserve forces and to use extensive means to disperse demonstrations. A senior police officer is quoted saying: “If we had not succeeded in eradicating the violence within four days and had been asked to continue confronting the activities that we witnessed, we would have found ourselves without the required quantity of weapons.” The arrival of another shipment of weapons from outside the country are said to have been days if not weeks away.

At that time, the police asked the Israeli army to supply weapons, but the request was rejected apparently because it was against the law. The police went to the Israeli army in anticipation of a weapons shortage. A legislative amendment was required but the law was not changed in time to authorize the replenishment of weapons stockpile.

Following the investigation, the police decided to purchase tens of millions of shekels of equipment, including 320,000 sound bombs, gas shells and sponge bullets for 30 million shekels ($9.18 million). According to Ynet, the police are currently working to purchase more weapons to disperse protesters.