Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sonic booms as weapons against civilians

Listening to an NPR piece on Gaza last week there was mention of continuous sonic booms from low flying Israel Defense Force aircraft disrupting sleep and normal life (as normal as life is in Gaza, anyway). It now turns out this is a conscious Israeli policy. BBC reports that doctors' groups have filed petitions with the Israeli Supreme Court about the practice.
The joint Israeli-Palestinian petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel says that according to international law, "the booms are collective punishment against the civilian population and thus illegal".

The head of the Gaza group, Dr Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist, has said that the sonic booms are having serious effects on children in Gaza, including anxiety, panic, fear, poor concentration and low academic success.

He also reports that the number of miscarriages among pregnant women increase during periods of frequent sonic booms.

The head of the UN Development Programme in the Gaza Strip, Khaled Abdul Shafi, said: "We at the United Nations have already submitted a letter of protest to the Israeli government urging them to stop... the sonic booming and the air raids immediately, because we simply think that this is a violation of basic human rights, especially rights of children to live in peace and to be educated in peace."
The sonic booms are not just distant cracks of thunder. They sound like huge bombs and are painful to the ears and may cause nosebleeds. The UN wants a stop to the practice, saying it causes panic attacks in children.
"Israel has long used sonic booms to rattle Palestinians in times of tension and violence," [the Israeli newspaper] Ha'Aretz notes. "The booms can be mistaken for one of the frequent missile attacks aimed at militants or weapons factories."

Israeli kibutzniks living near Gaza are just as spooked by the booms as the Palestinians. “The children are scared because they don’t understand, but the adults are also afraid,” one tells Ynetnews. “We are trying to continue with the daily routine, but it is very unpleasant to live like this.”

The Guardian adds that the IDF "was forced to apologize after one of the sonic booms was unintentionally heard hundreds of kilometers inside Israel last week." (Defensetech)
The Israeli Defense Force has declined comment on the grounds it is an ongoing court case. Where have I heard that before?