Human rights group condemns Israeli army weapon

02 May 2003
New York-based Human Rights Watch on 29 April called on the Israeli government to stop the use of flechette anti-personnel shells in heavily-populated areas in the Gaza Strip. The statement follows a ruling two days earlier in Israel's Supreme Court of Justice, which said that the court could not intervene in the army's use of these weapons as they were not illegal. 'Flechettes may not be banned outright, but they should never be used in areas where there are large numbers of civilians,' said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. 'The Israeli army doesn't use them in the West Bank because of the potential risks to civilians. It makes no sense to keep using them in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas on earth.' Flechettes are darts sprayed in mid-air from shells over an area of some 300x90 metres. Human Rights Watch, in common with other human rights groups, attributes numerous civilian deaths in Gaza to such weapons. Population density in Gaza is about 3,270 people per square kilometre.

As the death toll in 1 May's Gaza City raid rose to 12, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared himself 'deeply concerned' by the move and warned that such incidents endangered any progress on the peace roadmap. 'He [Annan] stresses that such actions, including the reported house demolitions, are contrary to international law,' the statement said. 'He believes that they contradict the international community's efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, following yesterday's presentation of the roadmap to the parties.'

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