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The Israel Police (IP) operates as Israel’s national police force and reports to the Ministry of Public Security.  It operates eight divisions for such functions as fighting crime and conducting investigations, and also operates the Border Patrol.  A special elite unit, the YAMAM, constitutes one of the units of the Border Patrol and specializes in civilian hostage rescue and counterterrorism activities.  The use of weapons by the IP is strictly regulated by a special order that limits police use of firearms to cases where other methods of response are not possible.  Information on the types of weapons and equipment used by the IP has not been identified at this time.

I.  Introduction

The Israel Police (IP), Israel’s national police force, operates as an arm of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).[1]  The IP budget allocation is specially designated in the MPS general budget.[2]

The IP is responsible for the “prevention and detection of offences, the apprehension and prosecution of offenders, the safe custody of prisoners and the maintenance of public order and of the safety of persons and property.”[3]

In addition to fighting crime and enforcing traffic regulations, the IP’s duties include maintaining public security by preventing acts of terror, examining and dismantling explosive devices, and deploying police officers during terrorist incidents.  The IP is also charged with maintaining law and order; responding to public disturbances, demonstrations, and unlawful gatherings; securing public order at official ceremonies; and protecting official installations, including seaports and airports.[4]

The IP is headed by the Inspector General (IG), who is appointed by the government upon recommendation of the Minister of Public Security.  The IP’s national headquarters in Jerusalem provides the IG with assistance in “formulating policy, allocating resources, developing relations with external agencies, providing professional guidance, promoting research and development, providing management services like computerization, and public relations.”[5]

The national headquarters includes the following eight divisions: 

(1)   Policing and Security

(2)   Investigations and the War on Crime

(3)   Intelligence

(4)   Traffic

(5)   Community and Civilian Guard

(6)   Planning and Organization

(7)   Support and Logistics

(8)   Human Resources[6]

The IP has six territorial districts: Northern, Central, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Southern, and Judea and Samaria.[7]  In addition, the IP also operates the Border Patrol force that supports police activities related to providing security and fighting criminality and terrorism.[8]  The Border Patrol operates an elite unit, the YAMAM, which specializes in civilian hostage rescue and counter-terrorism activities.[9] 

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

Information on the types of weapons and equipment used by the IP has not been identified at this time.

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

The IP’s use of weapons is regulated by Order No. 06.02.14.[10]  The Order sets forth general restrictions and also provides specific requirements as preconditions for using firearms to conduct an arrest, fire warning shots into the air to disperse rioters, and prevent immediate danger to human life.

A.  General Restrictions on Police Use of Firearms

The Order provides the following general rules regarding the use of firearms by police:

  1. A firearm is a lethal measure, the use of which may endanger a person’s life and the integrity of his/her body.
  2. The use of a firearm by a police officer is designed to assist the police officer in conducting an arrest and in protecting life and bodily integrity from an immediate danger—all in accordance with provisions and exclusions in this Order.

  3. The use of a firearm for the purpose of fulfilling a duty must be undertaken as a last resort, with the appropriate level of caution, and only under circumstances in which there is a logical relation between the level of danger that arises from the use of the weapon and the preventive result that is sought—all as detailed in this Order.

  4. The need for using a firearm during the performance of a task shall be examined at each stage of the event[;] the police officer will stop shooting immediately when the need for it has ceased.[11]

B.  Police Use of Firearms for Conducting an Arrest

The use of firearms by police to conduct an arrest is prohibited unless all the following conditions exist:

  • The arrest relates to a crime punishable by at least three years’ imprisonment;[12]
  • The act constituting the cause for arrest has substantially endangered or presently endangers a person’s life or bodily integrity;
  • There is no other way to conduct the arrest; and
  • The use of the firearm does not constitute a substantial risk to the lives or the bodily integrity of passersby and innocent persons.[13]

Unless a real and imminent danger to the life or bodily integrity of the police officer or another person exists, a police officer must give advanced warning of his/her intention to open fire.  The advance warning should, to the extent possible, be given in stages: first by calling loudly and, to the extent possible, in a language understood by the suspect; and then by firing a warning shot into the air, while exercising caution to prevent bodily harm and harm to property.[14]

When firing a weapon at a target, a police officer must exercise the utmost caution and fire in a way that will, to the extent possible, cause only minimal harm to bodily integrity or to property.[15]

C.  Firing Warning Shots into the Air to Disperse Rioters

Firing live ammunition into the air to disperse rioters is prohibited unless authorized by the IG, and when authorized must be carried out in accordance with the conditions of the authorization.  Any use of other weapons for the same purpose must be made in accordance with conditions and restrictions provided in directives periodically issued by the IP.[16]

D.  Use of Firearms to Prevent Immediate Harm to Human Life

Police use of firearms is permitted when there is a real and imminent danger to the life or bodily integrity of the police officer or of another person and when there is no other way to avert this danger.  In such a case, the firearm must be used in a way that will not exceed what is reasonable to prevent harm to life or bodily integrity; “the harm which might result [from the firearm’s use] will be weighed against the preventive harm that is sought.”[17]

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IV.  Recent Incidents and Court Decisions

Recent incidents involving allegations of the unlawful use of weapons by the IP center on the use of Tasers.  In May 2014 Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the request of a police officer who had been convicted of the unlawful use of a Tasers to delay implementation of his twenty-eight-month term of imprisonment until a determination in his appeal was made.[18]

The use of a Taser by the Border Police during the arrest of West Bank settler Boaz Albert in August 2013, however, was determined to be lawful by a ministerial investigation into the matter.  The incident made headlines after a YouTube video showed officers shocking Albert as he lay on the floor of his kitchen in the Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank.[19]  An investigation conducted by the Justice Ministry into the case backed the Border Police.  Citing the circumstances of the arrest, the Ministry’s investigative report concluded that stones were thrown at police officers outside Albert’s home and that when they entered Albert’s home, he “initially resisted arrest by running into different parts of his caravan home, until he was cornered. . . .  Border police used the Taser gun to subdue Albert so they could move him out of the house and leave the area quickly to avoid additional attacks by Albert’s supporters.”[20]

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Ruth Levush
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
September 2014


[1] For information on the Ministry’s activities, see Ministry of Public Security, http://mops.gov.il/english/Pages/ HomePage.aspx (last visited Sept. 2, 2014).

[2] Eyal Kofman, A Description and Analysis of the Budget of the Ministry of Public Security for 2013–2014, The Knesset Information and Research Center 1 (July 15, 2013), http://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/ data/pdf/m03249.pdf (in Hebrew).

[3] Police Ordinance (New Version), 5731-1971, § 3, 2 Laws of the State of Israel [LSI] (New Version) 158 (1972).

[4] The Israel Police, Ministry of Public Security, http://mops.gov.il/english/policingeng/police/pages/default.aspx (last visited Aug. 28, 2014).

[5] Structure, Israel Police (Feb. 13, 2012), http://www.police.gov.il/english_contentPage.aspx?pid=4&menuid=5.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Organizational Structure, Israel Police, http://www.police.gov.il/portal.aspx?pid=56&mid=17 (in Hebrew; last visited Sept. 2, 2014).

[9] For information on the YAMAM, see The Counterterrorism Unit, http://www.police.gov.il/yamam/ (in Hebrew; last visited Sept. 2, 2014); YAMAM, Ynet (Jan. 26, 2005), http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3019527,00.html.

[10] Israel Police, Order No. 06.02.14, The Use of Firearms (Mar. 9, 2007), https://www.police.gov.il/Doc/pkodotDoc/ sug_2/060214_2.pdf (in Hebrew).

[11] Order No. 06.02.14,  1 (translated by author, R.L.).

[12] See the Penal Law 5737-1977, § 24(1), LSI (Special Volume).

[13] Order No. 06.02.14, § 2(a).

[14] Id. § 2(b)(1)–(3).

[15] Id. § 2(c).

[16] Id. § 3.

[17] Id. § 4(b).

[18] CrimA 3558/14 Anonymous v. State of Israel (decision by the Supreme Court rendered on May 26, 2014), State of Israel: The Judicial Authority, http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files/14/580/035/w01/14035580.w01.pdf (in Hebrew).

[19] Yonah Jeremy Bob et al., MOJ: Police Taser Use Legal in Arrest of West Bank Settler Boaz Albert, Jerusalem Post (Nov. 26, 2013), http://www.jpost.com/National-News/MOJ-Police-Taser-use-legal-in-arrest-of-West-Bank-settler-Boaz-Albert-333059.

[20] Id.

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015