State Tells Court: Sonic Booms Over Gaza to Confuse Terrorists'

Israel Air Force warplanes break the sound barrier over the Gaza Strip to confuse terrorists, the state told the High Court of Justice yesterday.

The sonic booms are intended to "disrupt terror activities, engender fear among terrorists planning to attempt to fire rockets, deceive, create disinformation and a sense of threat and confusion among terrorists concerning the extent of Israel Defense Forces operations - their nature and specific locations," the state prosecutor said in response to a petition filed against the sonic booms by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program two weeks ago. IAF warplanes set off sonic booms over Gaza at all hours of the day and night, though they refrain from supersonic flights over Israel.

The head of the Gaza group, Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist, wrote in a medical opinion that the sonic booms have serious effects on Gaza children, including anxiety, panic, fear, poor concentration and low academic success, according to a statement. He also said that the number of miscarriages increases during periods of frequent sonic booms.

Israel has long used sonic booms to rattle Palestinians in times of tension and violence, maintaining the practice since its pullout from Gaza in September. The booms can be mistaken for one of the frequent missile attacks aimed at militants or weapons factories.

In the statement, the two groups said that according to international law, "the booms are collective punishment against the civilian population and thus illegal."

However, prosecutor Yuval Roitman said, "The influence sonic booms have on the civilian population is an influence that accompanies military actions to prevent Qassam rocket attacks and it is legitimate according to international law."