State asks High Court to nix petition

Court asked to increase "safety range" of IDF's artillery shelling instructions.

idf artillery 298 88 ap (photo credit: IDF [file])
idf artillery 298 88 ap
(photo credit: IDF [file])
The state on Thursday asked the High Court to reject out of hand a petition that would force the army to restrict its artillery fire into Gaza, saying that the court should not intervene in army operational decisions. According to attorney Michael Sfard, who filed the petition on behalf of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights, the army last month reduced the target safety margin of artillery shells from 300 to 100 meters from the Palestinian civilian population of northern Gaza. According to the petitioners, the order was given to exert additional pressure on terrorists firing Kassam rockets into Israel. Sfard said, however, that the order was in violation of international law because it endangered the lives and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population. Sfard maintained that the lethal fallout of an artillery shell can kill anyone within a radius of 100 meters and wound anyone within a radius of 200 meters. Furthermore, if a shell is aimed to fall 100 meters in front of a civilian target, the distance to the target is short enough that human error or climatic effects can cause the shell to hit it, he said. According to Sfard, international customary law, which binds Israel, called on armies to distinguish between enemy soldiers and civilians. It also called for an action to be proportional to the threat it was trying to overcome. Sfard stressed that, although international law allowed an endangered soldier to fire back at the source of enemy fire even if it was coming from a civilian area, the army's policy was an offensive one because the artillery gunners open fire when they are not being shot at. The court said it would hand down its decision at a later date.