When I was in Gaza I visited Al Aqsa Hospital. The hospital -- originally established as a clinic -- changed to a district hospital when Israel divided Gaza into three administrative zones/districts and made it problematic for anyone except Israeli settlers and Israeli soldiers to travel between these sections. (Ambulances attempting to cross the checkpoints require special permission, and even with permission they can experience waits of two or three hours . . . or simply a refusal to allow passage.)

When the director of the hospital meets with visitors, and speaks eloquently about the extreme difficulties of providing health care in the occupied territories, he is able to illustrate some of these difficulties by referring to small pieces of metal which his staff has removed from patients. These small and deadly metal darts -- flechettes -- are the subject of today's press release from Physicians for Human Rights–Israel. ML

Press Release
October 22nd, 2002

PHR-Israel Submits Petition to the High Court Demanding that Israeli Military Forces Cease Use of Flechette Anti-Personnel Rounds

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) petitioned the High Court of Justice today, October 22nd, 2002, demanding the IDF be prohibited from using Flechette Rounds in the Gaza Strip. The petition was submitted following a number of cases in which this weapon was used in the region. The petition was filed by attorneys Yossi Arnon and Yossi Tsur. Flechette Rounds are prohibited from use according to the principles of International Law, as they cause unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate damage. Usage of this weapon demonstrates a complete disregard for the life and health of Palestinians.

Flechette Rounds were developed by the United States Army during the Vietnam War as the most efficient weapons against the Viet Cong. The Flechette Round (from the French term for “little arrow”) consists of thousands of small metal darts, each four centimeters in length. Having been shot from a tank, the round explodes in the air and tiny darts scatter over a 300 by 100 meter area.

Israel purchased this weapon from the United States in 1973 and used it in the occupied zone in Southern Lebanon in areas defined by the IDF as “death zones”. Since the outbreak of the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” a decision was made in IDF Southern Command to use Flechette Rounds. The Central Command, on the other hand, has decided not to use this weapon in highly populated areas such as the West Bank.

Since September 2000 Israel has used the Flechette on a number of occasions. In at least three incidences that are cited in the petition, Flechette Rounds were responsible for the death of 10 innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Use of Flechette Rounds is illegal and constitutes a brutal violation of humanitarian law as well as of warfare and occupation laws. The large range affected by thousands of darts characteristic of the flachette constitutes an indiscriminate act of violence and causes unnecessary suffering; its use should, therefore, be prohibited. Three autopsy reports of the boys killed in December 2001 have been appended to the petition; they are testimony to the suffering inflicted upon the victims of flechette rounds.

For further details please contact: Attorney Eyad al-Alami, PCHR, 08-2824776, 08-2823725

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in 1988, comprising some 650 members who combat Israeli health and human rights violations, and strive to ensure equal and adequate health services for all.
Tel: 972 3 6873718
Fax: 972 3 6873029
Email: mail@phr.org.il

To contribute to our work please send cheques to: ‘Physicians for Human Rights-Israel‘, 30 Levanda St., Tel-Aviv 66020, Israel. Tax-Exempt contributions may be made through the New Israel Fund. Contributions should be marked as donor-advised to Physicians for Human Rights–Israel: New Israel Fund, PO Box 91588, Washington DC 20090-1588, USA, or New Israel Fund of Great Britain, 26 Enford Street, London, W1h 2DD, Great Britain