A bloodstained wall full of flechettes


A flechette embedded in a wall in a Bedouin villlage in Gaza © Amnesty International

Monday, January 26: The Israeli army’s use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas of Gaza has captured much of the world’s media interest. However, the Israeli forces also used a variety of other weapons against civilian residential built-up areas throughout the Gaza Strip in the three-week conflict that began on 27 December.

Among these are flechettes – tiny metal darts (4cm long, sharply pointed at the front and with four fins at the rear) that are packed into120mm shells. These shells, generally fired from tanks, explode in the air and scatter some 5,000 to 8,000 flechettes in a conical pattern over an area around 300 metres wide and 100 metres long.

Flechettes are an anti-personnel weapon designed to penetrate dense vegetation and to strike a large number of enemy soldiers. They should never be used in built-up civilian areas.

The Israeli Army has used flechettes in Gaza periodically for several years. In most reported cases, their use has resulted in civilians being killed or injured. The last reported case was in April 2008, when Israeli soldiers fired a flechette shell at Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana while he was filming in Gaza, killing him.

He was filming the tank at the time and caught its firing of the flechette shell on camera in the split second before he was killed. Other civilians, including children, were killed and injured by the same flechette shell.

The Israeli Army said later that it had investigated the incident and concluded that its troops’ actions were justified – although the film footage of the incident showed clearly shows that Fadel Shana and others who were killed and injured were posing no threat to the soldiers in the tank when they fired the flechette shell, or to anyone else.

We first heard about the use of flechettes in the conflict that began on 27 December some 10 days ago. The father of one of the victims showed us a flechette that had been taken out of his son’s body.

Then, when we went to a Bedouin village in north Gaza, we saw several flechettes embedded in the walls of houses and residents told us that the street had been littered with them after the attack. Today, we found more hard evidence of their use in two other villages.

In ‘Izbat Beit Hanoun, to the south-west of the town of Beit Hanoun, several flechette shells were fired into the main road, killing two people and injuring several others on the morning of 5 January. Wafa’ Nabil Abu Jarad, a 21-year-old pregnant mother of two, was one of those killed.

Her husband and her mother-in-law told us that the family had just had breakfast and were outside the house drinking tea in the sun. Wafa’ and her husband were standing by the corner of the house when they heard a noise, followed by screams.

They turned to go back into their house, but, at that moment, Wafa’ and several other members of the family were hit by flechettes. Wafa’ was killed outright. Her two-year-old son, who was in the house, was struck by a flechette which became embedded in his right knee.

Wafa’s husband, Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad, and his father were both injured in the back and other parts of the body. One of the flechettes that hit Mohamed Khalil Abu Jarad is still lodged in his back, close to his spinal cord. It was clearly visible in an X-ray that he showed to us. Doctors have not attempted to remove it as they fear that he could be left paralyzed.

At the other end of the same street, we visited the house of 16-year-old Islam Jaber Abd-al-Dayem, who was hit on the same day by a flechette that struck him in the neck. He was taken to the hospital’s ICU (intensive care unit) but died three days later.

Mizar, his brother, was injured in the same attack and still has a flechette lodged in his back. We found flechettes embedded in the walls of these and several other houses nearby – the tiny darts explode out of their shell with such force that sometimes only the fins at the back are left sticking out when they become embedded in walls.

In the village of al-Mughraqa, a few kilometres south of Gaza City, dozens of houses were destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardments and shelling. Most residents of the area fled from their homes when the Israeli ground incursion began on 3 January. But some did not, with tragic consequences.

They included Atta Hassan Aref Azzam, who feared that if he left his home it would be destroyed. He decided to stay. He and his family remained inside their house because there was frequent shelling and shooting in the area, only going out to fetch water.

At 8.30 am on 7 January, a shell struck the room in which Atta Azzam was sitting with two of his children, Mohammed, aged 13, and Hassan, aged two and a half, killing all three of them. The six other members of the family who were in the house fled to the nearest school for shelter. When we examined the bloodstained wall by which the three were killed, we saw that it was full of flechettes.

Posted in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories | 24 Comments

  1. shafiur says:

    Use of these goes against the 4th Geneva Convention which protects non-combatants. 194 countries have signed up to that. Anyone know if Israel is a signatory?

  2. Nigel says:

    Yes, Israel is – signed 8th Dec 49, ratified 6th Jul 51.


  3. Sarah says:

    How much longer is the rest of the world going to politely ignore this? Pointless question, I know, but I’m just so angry.

  4. Edie says:

    Shafiur, I believe it doesn’t matter if Israel is a signatory. Israel is bound through customary int’l law which requires all parties to the conflict to practice ‘proportionality, distinction and necessity’. Using flechettes in this manner is indiscriminate. It’s not distinguishing between combatant vs non-combatant.

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  7. Christian Fischar says:

    Can somebody point me to the lengthy article where you all get wild about the 4th Geneva Convention which protects non-combatants, the war crimes, the inhumane torture, the liquidatian without a trial from…

    …the hamas?

    Oh wait, isn´t possible because there are no jews in the hamas, right?

    Why are you people, if you really want peace, are not fighting for a move of the Hamas?, a change in their charta, a right to exist for israel?

    Why is it, that I never see you questioning anything the palestinian side is doing?

    Or for that matter, why constantly repeating information which is in best case questionable if not completely made up?

    You are a disgrace for providing these evil people a stage!!
    You are a disgrace for what amnesty international once stood!!

  8. Cheryl Wilcocks says:

    Could I suggest that Christian Fischar actually read what Amnesty International is saying and writing before being so blinded by his own opinions that he cannot comprehend that BOTH sides have (and are) suffering from this ongoing politico-religious problem?
    The reality is that during the recent conflict Israeli deaths have been roughly in the ratio of one to one hundred. Hardly an equitable equation. It also accounts for why there are so many more accounts of Palestinian deaths in Gaza than there are of Israeli deaths in Israel.
    This is a direct quotation from Amnesty’s website: “Amnesty International researchers visiting Gaza and southern Israel have found evidence of war crimes and other serious violations of international law by all parties to the conflict.” Clearly this condemns BOTH sides for their illegal actions and is entirely in both the spirit and letter of Amnesty’s raison d’etre. in my opinion, Amnesty International Is NOT supporting Hamas any more than it is supporting Israel. It is condemning those who cause unnecessary civilian deaths.
    I feel that Christian Fischar needs to learn to distinguish between justified criticism and unreasoning prejudice; I am anti-Zionist, but also a dedicated opponent of anti-Semitism and anti-racism of any kind. Amnesty International needs our support so that some rational solution can eventually be reached in an area which is feeding hate and militant religious prejudice and fundamentalism throughout the whole world.
    I hope that my ex-pupils have learned to distinguish between rational thought and unthinking emotional response and hope that Christian Fischar also begins to learn this too.
    I also feel that

  9. Allen Jasson says:

    Christian Fischar’s problem comes down to this: the consequence (perhaps not unintended) of the Geneva Conventions is that the country “behaving badly” (i.e. Invading, occupying, generally aggressive etc) puts itself at a disadvantage. The citizens of the occupied country (e.g. France late 1930s), both militants and civilians, have the right to resist occupation by any means at their disposal – witness Hammas home-made rockets. The Occupier on the other hand has certain responsibilities to the inhabitants of the occupied territory. Israel’s occupation is illegal and offensive to civilised human values.

  10. Christian conveniently omits the fact,that HAMAS was democratically elected by the people.From the outset,both the US and Israel refused to recognise this – it was a fact!The US was looking for ways to remove HAMAS.(I’m no champion of HAMAS or FATAH either for that matter).It made Bush’s continual utterances of “freedoms & democracy” a joke.Just as it is in relation to Venezuela or Bolivia.It’s the ‘free if you agree speech, and democracy wins when our ‘man’ is elected? Such hypocrisy! The refusal to admonish Israel in any way for invading a people with no means to defend against horrific weapons.Israel has done what the Germans did to the Jews – make innocents die in retribution for one or a few!One Jew who committed an act against the aggressors resulted in the rounding up of 20 or more by German soldiers – they’d be shot!The oppressed have become the oppressors!Sickening!

  11. Christian Fischar says:

    And I would suggest that Cheryl Wilcocks should put a stop to her so called “equitable equation” if it comes to human lifes or in this case, of human lifes lost, because that is sick and brutal. Or is Cheryl Wilcocks seriously thinking if only more Israelis lost there life, there would be any different reaction from the so called “anti-Zionists”?

    And Cheryl Wilcocks is right about distinguishing between justified criticism and unreasoning prejudice, thats why I support a justified military operation to protect the civilans of israel against unreasoning prejudice from the fascist Hamas.

    Amnesty is clearly NOT condemning BOTH sides. Or where is it written that the Hamas-Leader responsible for the suicide-bombings should be brought to DenHaag? Or where did Amnesty did a protest against the weapon smuggling to Gaza?

    You are right about Amnesty also condeming Palestinian armed groups, for example “Amnesty International condemns suicide bombing” from 15/032/2006 and justifies the bombing in the same short (140 words) article by anouncing “In the same period Israeli forces killed some 75 Palestinians, many of them unarmed and including more than 15 children.”

    “more than 15″, well write 16 if it is so, another way to present your propaganda.

    And Allen Jasson is wrong when he thinks that Gaza is occupied. Therefore he is also wrong about the fact that the Hamas are anything close to french resistance fighters (well there antisemitic attitude maybe). By legitimating “by any means at their disposal” and in the same time condeming a military operation to finally put an end to the attacks against civilians shows me only your true face, disgusting violence is ok, when only committed from the side your family belongs to.

    And no, Naomi Cartledge I don´t omitt the fact that the Hamas was democratically elected by the people which is by the way the same case as Adolf Hitler 1932. But what excactly has that to do with the fact that your democratic friends have a charta clearly stating to destroy israel and the jews in general? Are you saying that if a fascist party would win an election in your country and their agenda would be to kill, lets say, all Mexicans you would actually argue in the same way… that this is ok, because well you know, they won an election?

    And “Israel has done what the Germans did to the Jews” is the mountain top of hypocrisy which contradicts all what is said on the whole page here, it is shoking that Amnesty International lets this horrendous statement still stand here!

    I wish you all had family in israel or in palestine, you would talk different!

    And to end like you Allen, the behaviour of the palestinian Hamas is illegal and offensive to civilised human values, but you people are just pathetic. If you have nothing better to do, fight AIDS it kills 1.8-2.3 million people (mostly women and children…)

  12. ISAAC MIER says:


  13. Roman Gawel says:

    Christian Fischar seems to be one of the individuals sadly indoctrinated into thinking the Jewish race is endangered and must fight tooth and nail for survival. To make justifications for actions instantly shows that something is wrong as you are JUSTIFYING it! Firstly, the Zionists invade and slaughter their way across the country. in the 1948 massacres 804,000 people out of about a million were displaced. That is around 80% of a population turned to refugees (these figures are from a peer-reviewed paper from Jerusalem university. Some of the populace were locked into an area of 350 km square. Minefields, electric fences and guard towers on 3 sides. The Israeli navy on the other. Nothing in and nothing out apart from stream of shells every couple of years. Is it any wonder that the Israelis provoked a resistance movement? I don’t condone killing on ANY side and the arguments about who started things don’t help. But an idiot can see that attacks like the past one on gaza stoke the fires of resistance. Hamas’ popularity has soared post Gaza. Their position is stronger and 50.8% of the Palestinian population now think that Qassam missile attacks are justified now as to the 28.something % before this attack on Gaza. As to the “move your family to Palestine then comment!” remark, it just illustrates the ignorance of this person and the fact that they are almost certainly Israeli, European or American with no experience of this population. I live in Palestine and the people there are far less aggressive and war-like. Far kinder and accepting than those I have met in Israel.

  14. Pat Bryden says:

    There is so much from Amnesty’s own research that I am surprised there is not a major campaign to mobilise all Amnesty members/groups into strong action!
    UK members need to keep pressing for this please!
    Secondly, can Amnesty as an organisation take Israel to the International ~Court for War Crimes?

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  16. Louis Cypher says:

    Not much to say, you join the fight you might get hurt, why should flechettes not be used ?? I think everyone is fair game when the cowards hide behind women and children,

    • Sableagle says:

      A little clarification, please. You “think everyone is fair game when the cowards hide behind women and children,” meaning every enemy combatant or everyone including the women and children? Remember that Apache gunship that shot up a news crew in Iraq, then shot up the people that tried to help them, then shot up the kids in the van too and commented that “That’s what you get for bringing your children into a war zone?” When you bring a war zone and put it over someone’s entire country, they didn’t bring their kids to it. You did. Either way, we have an age of criminal responsibility for a reason, and it’s not like a human shield generally has much choice in the matter. In Gaza, if someone asks you whether you support Hamas you say yes or you die, so don’t go saying all Hamas supporters are fair ga… wait a minute.

      Fair game? Fair game?!? Game as in “wild animals, including birds and fishes, such as are hunted for food or taken for sport or profit,” you mean? Seriously?

  17. bYRON says:

    3 CHEERS. Maybe there will be a lesson learned. War isn’t meant to be politically correct nor enjoyable. My heart bleeds, I pitty them, but I see no cause for compassion. A horrid war is a short war. Make it as disagreeable to soldier and citizen, and they will see that cause for it’s end is swift.

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  21. Ben Vallejo says:

    Christian I have a good idea for you. If you think that suicide bombers such as women who hide explosives in straw basket and blow people up is such a big threat, then why don’t you trade your missils, tanks and bombs for there picknit basckets.

  22. Ulysses ben Dover says:

    Why do you cretins imagine Israel should abide by Geneva conventions when all these damn Muslim terrorists cannot give a flying fig about such conventions. They use any means at their disposal to commit terrorist acts. Leave Israel the hell alone and go back to screwing your sheep.

  23. Karen says:

    Amnesty is *not* calling for the destiuctron of Israel. Have you read the original document? And do you know that Hamas has described it as being “biased” because in their opinion it is pro-Israel? Do you know what the position is of AI on the wave of politically motivated killings in Gaza by Hamas during and after the war? Do you know that someone is trying to sell the notion that “the Israeli lobby” is controlling Amnesty International? That must be why they do not support the Palestinian side *enough* and keep criticizing them as well. Do you know that one of the former Presidents of the AI Israeli Section was amongst the victims of the British (brutish) academic boycott of Israel’s universities?The trial game keeps as usual being played in this war as well as in all wars. Amnesty International is trying not to became one of the players in the game that’s all.

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