27 April 2003
In their decision, the judges rejected a petition submitted by PCHR and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel which demanded an absolute prohibition on the use of flechette tank shells, which are being used with increasing frequency by Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
International humanitarian law prohibits the use of weapons that are indiscriminate, and classifies indiscriminate attacks that cause excessive suffering to civilians, as a war crime. Flechette tank shells are designed specifically to injure or kill as many persons as possible within as wide an area as possible. They cannot be directed at a specific target, and therefore cannot discriminate between military and civilian targets. They are an intentionally indiscriminate weapon and as such their use in civilian populated areas is prohibited.
Flechette shells are launched from a tank and are designed to explode before impact. On explosion they launch thousands of small metal darts over an area approximately 300m long and 100m wide. According to PCHR’s documentation, from 2 March 2000, when PCHR first documented the use of these shells by Israeli occupying forces, until the end of March 2003, at least 33 Palestinian civilians had been killed by flechettes. 29 of the victims, including 8 children, were killed in the Gaza Strip.
PCHR expresses its deep regret that the Israeli High Court ruling has failed to prohibit the use of this indiscriminate weapon. PCHR asserts that this ruling is a continuation of the Israeli judiciary’s practice of legalizing Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians. PCHR further asserts that this practice and the policies of the Israeli military necessitate immediate international intervention to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians and to secure Israel’s compliance with international law.