Knife-Wielding Terrorist Attackers Should Be Killed: Israel Chief Rabbi

Pope Francis (R) walks with Israeli Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, during a visit to the Heichal Shlomo Center in Jerusalem on May 26, 2014.

Jerusalem (AFP) – An Israeli chief rabbi said that knife-wielding attackers should be killed, after a call by the head of the armed forces to not use excessive firepower in combating a wave of Palestinian violence.

“If a terrorist comes at someone with a knife, it is a (religious) duty to kill him –- he who comes to kill you, kill him first,” Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (pictured) said on Saturday.

“Don’t get all afraid of the courts, or if some chief of staff says something else,” Yosef said in a televised weekly sermon.

This was an apparent reference to Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, who angered some right-wing politicians in remarks he made last month that were interpreted as advocating a more measured approach to assailants.

“When there’s a 13-year-old girl holding scissors or a knife and there is some distance between her and the soldiers, I don’t want to see a soldier open fire and empty his magazine at a girl like that,” the general had said.

Yosef, however, stressed too that assailants who were disarmed and posed no threat were no longer under the “comes to kill you” category and should be jailed rather than killed.

Since October 1, a wave of violence has killed 188 Palestinians, 28 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count.

Most of the Palestinians were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

The United Nations and human rights groups have voiced concern that Israeli security forces are responding to attacks with excessive force, but Israel denies the charges.