Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Israel Using “Flechette” Shells in Gaza – Tim Veater

Israel Using “Flechette” Shells in Gaza – Tim Veater

From the Guardian report below, it appears Israel has deployed “flechette” shells in Gaza. All weapons of war are horrific, this one particularly so.
It is a shell, which on detonation in the air, sends a canopy of small (37mm or about an inch and a half in length) but lethal metal “arrows” hurtling to the ground over an area of approximately 90 x 300 metres. It is said (rather obviously) to be very effective against opposing ground troops, or presumably any other life-form that gets in its way.
This weapon is apparently considered “legal” by the Israeli judges. However we may assume were it used by Palestinians or any other group in the centre of Tel Aviv, they might take a somewhat different view of its “legality” and those responsible for deploying it. Presumably, Israel’s media would then characterise it as an outrageous contravention of all humanitarian standards by despicable “terrorists”. It is such double standards that condemn Israel in the eyes of the world to a pernicious form of merciless hypocrisy.
Israel has justified its invasion of Gaza as a measured response to Hamas rocket fire, with the objective of disrupting its activity and cutting off subterranean supply routes. The trouble is its targeting strategy appears to bear no relationship to it, aimed intentionally at domestic property containing unrelated families and even hospitals, schools and UN “safe-houses”. The Jewish News provides an alternative explanation, passing the blame to Hamas mis-fired rockets (1)
There are no advancing troops in the conventional sense, so how can flechette shells be justified in any way, let alone against a civilian population? Israel, so sensitive to criticism itself (2) is completely callous when it comes to the deployment of weapons. Indeed, as regards the use of flechette shells it may be appropriate to describe their attitude as “hard as nails”.
We should not forget in the last Gaza offensive, Israel’s leaders had no compunction in using phosphorus bombs indiscriminatingly. Let’s be clear about this: Israel has used chemical weapons against its civilian population, yet with virtually no international condemnation or adverse consequences.
There are reports that it has been using them again in the current violence. (3) If so it will renege on an IDF undertaking made only a year ago. (4) So perhaps we should not be surprised when it has no compunction in using anti-personnel flechette bombs.
We can only conclude that the deployment of this particular weapon has nothing to do with its tactical objectives but rather just as a means of intimidating and punishing the civilian population – a specific War Crime under International Convention. The objective must be to inflict such arbitrary pain and suffering as to induce terror as a means of power and subjugation.
In a final ironic twist, in carrying out the operation, thirty-seven* young Israeli soldiers have (arguably needlessly) now lost their lives, (5) in contrast with the number of Israelis killed by Hamas rocket fire since the “Operation Protective Edge” began.(6)
When the “dust has settled”, Israelis themselves might start to question their government’s intransigent, inequitable treatment of the Palestinians, the on-going provocation of settlement policy, and the decision to invade Gaza, as they did after the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, (7) In the meantime, the adverse consequences to Israel’s reputation and trade, might just possibly make its leaders think twice about its uncompromising and confrontational approach. Who knows? Pigs might fly. END.
(2) “Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Yuval Steinitz, was more direct in his criticism of Mr. Kerry. He told Israel Radio on Sunday that Mr. Kerry’s remarks were “hurtful,” “unfair” and “intolerable” and added, “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head.”
(*Today’s BBC news has increased this to forty.)
Israel using flechette shells in Gaza
Palestinian human rights group accuses Israel military of using shells that spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal darts
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Sunday 20 July 2014 12.40 BST
Flechette shell darts
An image provided by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights of darts from a flechette shell it says the Israeli military fired in Gaza last week.
The Israeli military is using flechette shells, which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts, in its military operation in Gaza.
Six flechette shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, on 17 July, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Nahla Khalil Najjar, 37, suffered injuries to her chest, it said. PCHR provided a picture of flechettes taken by a fieldworker last week.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) did not deny using the shells in the conflict. “As a rule, the IDF only employs weapons that have been determined lawful under international law, and in a manner which fully conforms with the laws of armed conflict,” a spokesperson said in response to a request for specific comment on the deployment of flechettes.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, describes a flechette shell as “an anti-personnel weapon that is generally fired from a tank. The shell explodes in the air and releases thousands of metal darts 37.5mm in length, which disperse in a conical arch 300 metres long and about 90 metres wide”.
The munitions are not prohibited under international humanitarian law, but according to B’Tselem, “other rules of humanitarian law render their use in the Gaza Strip illegal. One of the most fundamental principles is the obligation to distinguish between those who are involved and those who are not involved in the fighting, and to avoid to the extent possible injury to those who are not involved. Deriving from this principle is the prohibition of the use of an imprecise weapon which is likely to result in civilian injuries.”
Flechette shell darts embedded in a wall in Gaza
A image taken in 2009 of darts from a flechette shell embedded in a wall in Gaza. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP
The legality of flechette munitions was upheld by the Israeli supreme court in 2002, and according to an Israeli military source, they are particularly effective against enemy fighters operating in areas covered by vegetation.
The source said a number of armies around the world deploy flechette shells, and that they were intended solely for use against legitimate military targets in accordance with international law.
The IDF has deployed flechette shells in Gaza and Lebanon before. B’Tselem has documented the deaths of nine Palestinians in Gaza from flechettes in 2001 and 2002. Flechettes have also killed and wounded dozens of civilians, including women and children, in conflicts between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Israeli military deployed artillery shells containing white phosphorous in densely populated areas of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009, causing scores of deaths and extensive burns. It initially issued a categorical denial of reports of the use of white phosphorous, but later admitted it, saying the weapon was only used to create smokescreens.
Human Rights Watch said its use of the munitions in Operation Cast Lead was indiscriminate and evidence of war crimes.
In response to a legal challenge, the IDF said last year it would “avoid the use in built-up areas of artillery shells containing white phosphorus, with two narrow exceptions.” The exceptions were not disclosed.”

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