Israeli Army Admits to Using US-Made ‘Flechette’ Shells in Attacks on Gaza Strip
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that Israeli soldiers had used flechette shells, which split into hundreds of tiny metal darts, in attacks on the Gaza Strip, reported Radio Israel on Tuesday.
The Israeli army insisted that the use of the flechette shells was “legal.”
But the commander of the Palestinian national security service, Saeb Al Jaz, argued that international conventions forbid the use of the flechette shells, said the radio.
According to the report, the Israeli tank shell that killed three Palestinian women on Sunday in Gaza was a flechette round.
The Israeli army used these shells in the past in the security zone in Lebanon, against Hizbollah fighters.
The weapon is considered most effective in an open area where it can be used to increase the strike radius.
But the use of the flechette, which scatters the arrows around the target rather than hitting it precisely, is much more problematic in Gaza, which is a densely-populated area, according to Haaretz newspaper.
Israel’s Brigadier General Yitzhak Eitan of the Central Command, which oversees the West Bank, has forbidden the use of flechette shells for fear of hitting civilians. But in the Gaza Strip, where the fighting is fiercer, flechette shells have been employed from the start of the Intifada, said Haaretz.
Military sources told Jane's Defence Weekly in May that the IDF is divided about the employment of the round, with some officers arguing that the shell is effective against certain targets while others warn of an international backlash.
The IDF is using a modified version of the M494 105mm APERS-T round provided by the USA in the 1970s, said Jane's. According to a US Army manual, the round is "designed for close-in assault against massed infantry assaults and for offensive fire against exposed enemy personnel."
"The Israeli military obtained these weapons from the USA after the 1973 war and we have thousands of old shells in warehouses," an Israeli defence source told Jane's. "The weapon is not regarded as reliable or effective and gunners have a difficult time in aiming this properly."
The use of flechette rounds in war is not proscribed by the Geneva Convention but their use in internal security operations is more problematic, according to the weekly.
A US State Department official told Jane's: "There has been no determination as to whether Israel has done something to violate the Arms Export Control Act" or any other arms-related law or agreement in its recent military actions. The official added that the state and defence departments are reviewing those actions and Israel's use of other US-supplied weapons, but refused to confirm whether the flechette rounds were specifically included, said the weekly – Albawaba.com
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