IDF Accused of 'Knowingly Risking Palestinian Lives'

Rights movements claim new regulation allowing shelling up to 100 meters from houses endangers civilians.

Six human rights organizations appealed the High Court on Sunday to cancel a regulation which allows Israel Defense Forces artillery to fire shells at targets up to 100 meters away from Palestinian houses.

Last week Defense Minister Shual Mofaz reduced the safety range down from 300 meters in an effort to put a stop to Qassam rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Attorney Michael Sfard claimed on behalf of the human rights organizations that Mofaz's decision deliberately endangers Palestinian lives because the shells are known to land within a 100-meter spread from their targets.

IDF officers admitted that the new regulations put Palestinian lives at risk but insisted it would help strike back at Palestinian militants launching rockets at Israeli civilians.

Last week a 12-year-old Palestinian girl was killed and five of her family members were wounded when an IDF artillery shell struck their house in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya. In response, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz asked Mofaz to reinstate the previous safety regulations, but was turned down.

"We have no way of ensuring that civilians will not be hurt in the next shelling," an IDF officer recently told Haaretz. "But the bombardment [of targets in Gaza] disrupts the activities of Qassam rocket launching cells. They feel threatened and fire quickly, without taking aim, in order to get out of the area. That's why lots of the rockets fired lately landed in the sea. We cannot allow a situation in which our civilians, [who live] around the Strip, will be held hostage by terrorist organizations," the officer said.