Israel to use flechette shells

Jerusalem - Israel's Supreme Court has given the army the green light to use controversial flechette tanks shells which spray thousands of darts over hundreds of metres, ripping apart anyone in the killing zone.

Physicians for Human Rights, an Israeli advocacy group, said the use of such shells was in contravention of the Geneva Convention covering the rules of warfare and should be banned.

It said the shells had killed 10 innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Palestinian urpising, or intifada, in September 2000.

The army has argued that it has used the weapons very selectively in its fight against terrorism.

Israeli media reports have said the army uses the shells mainly against mortar crews firing rounds at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

"If we bowed to your demand today, we would be asked tomorrow the ban the army from using teargas and sound bombs," one of the judges quipped.

According to Jane's Defence Weekly, the British military analysis journal, Israel uses flechette shells acquired from the United States in the 1970s which fire 5 000 darts in in a cone-shaped pattern 300m long and about 94m wide.

The rounds were developed for use against infantry units.

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