Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Israel-Gaza conflict: Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza

The tiny arrow-like ammunition, fired in their thousands in a tank shell, have been described as carrying ‘a particularly high danger of harming innocent civilians’

The small pointed metal darts known as flechettes are fired in their thousands in tank shells. File photo of flechette seen in the Gaza Strip in 2009
The small pointed metal darts known as flechettes are fired in their thousands in tank shells. File photo of flechette seen in the Gaza Strip in 2009

The Israeli military is reportedly using flechette shells in its offensive in Gaza, weapons described as illegal under “rules of humanitarian law” by an Israeli human rights organisation.

Generally fired by a tank and described as an “imprecise weapon” ill-suited to combat in a built-up area, flechette shells explode in the air above a target, sending out a cone of thousands of tiny steel darts each no more than 4cm (1.57 ins) long.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), six such shells were fired towards the village of Khuzaa in the Gaza Strip on 17 July, the Guardian reported.

The PCHR was described as saying that a woman, 37-year-old Nahla Khalil Najjar, suffered injuries to her chest in the flechette shelling, and pictures purporting to show the ammunition were passed on by a PCHR fieldworker.

When approached by the newspaper, the Israeli military did not deny using the shells in the conflict, saying that it only deploys weapons “determined lawful under international law”.

Flechette rounds have been used before in Gaza, and were declared legal by the Israeli supreme court in 2002. But a 2011 report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem described them as carrying “a particularly high danger of harming innocent civilians”.

“While flechettes are not expressly forbidden under international humanitarian law in all circumstances, other rules of humanitarian law render their use in the Gaza Strip illegal,” B’Tselem said.

“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.”

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert describes injuries in Al Shifa Hospital

Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Police officers stand in red paint which was thrown during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Police officers stand in red paint which was thrown during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

From the archives

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds 

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

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