Rubber-coated steel bullets - "rubber bullets"

Published: 
1 Jan 2014

The Israeli security forces' arsenal of means to disperse demonstrations in the Occupied Territories includes the use of "rubber" bullets. These bullets are, in fact, steel bullets with thin rubber coats. Their use to disperse demonstrations is based on security officials' belief that "rubber" bullets are less lethal than live ammunition and that, therefore, they are appropriate for use in situations which are not life-threatening to security forces or other persons.

The drafters of the Open-Fire Regulations, however, were aware of the danger inherent in the use of "rubber bullets." The Regulations emphasize that "The means for dispersing the riot may cause bodily injury and in certain circumstances also death." Because rubber-coated steel bullets are intended for use where soldiers or other persons are not in life-threatening situations, the Regulations stipulate several restrictions concerning their use. According to the defense establishment, these provisions prevent the bullet from causing serious or fatal injury.

According to these rules, the minimum range for firing "rubber" bullets is forty meters, and use is limited to specially trained personnel. The Regulations emphasize that the bullets must be fired only at the individual's legs, and that they are not to be fired at children or from a moving vehicle.

The permission to fire potentially lethal rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians to disperse "violent riots" or demonstrations has led to the deaths of dozens of Palestinians. Viewing rubber-coated steel bullets as "less lethal" than live ammunition leads one to possess a light trigger-finger. This phenomenon is only supported by the view of State Attorney's Office that these deaths are "unavoidable mistakes."