JERUSALEM (Sep. 29)
In the face of growing international criticism, Israel defended its use of plastic bullets against rioting Palestinians in the territories and explained why they were adopted by the Israel Defense Force a month ago.
A spokesman for Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Thursday clarified a statement attributed to Rabin regarding the use of the bullets.
Rabin was quoted as saying, “If more rioters are hurt, that is our intention.”
But his communications adviser, Eitan Haber, denied that this meant the IDF is under orders to shoot as many Arabs as possible.
“The shooting of plastic bullets is intended to cause more injuries, but only among the rioters,” Haber said.
He insisted they are intended actually to avoid the damage caused by live bullets, and are supposed to be aimed only at the leaders of violent demonstrations, who are usually found at the rear of the demonstrators.
Unit commanders had hoped the plastic bullets would reduce the incidence of stone-throwing. So far, they have not.
The plastic bullets are substitutes for rubber bullets and live ammunition, but have been found to inflict severe wounds and in some cases have been fatal.
Their use has been officially protested to Israel by the United States and Britain.
“We believe that measures must be taken to reduce rather than to increase casualties among Palestinian demonstrators,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said Wednesday.
According to military regulations, plastic bullets may be fired only from distances of at least 230 feet. They must be aimed at the legs, below the knees.
But doctors at Ahali hospital in Gaza testified that eight Palestinians have been killed by plastic bullets in the month since they were first employed.