Israel is taking a number of steps to add to its non-lethal weapons inventory in anticipation of upcoming protests. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) expect violent demonstrations following Palestine’s declaration of statehood planned for September 20 at the United Nations.
Last month the IDF began downgrading the caliber of their weapons (from 5.56 rounds to .22) and adding more non-lethal weapons like impact rounds, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel has been criticized for deaths and injuries caused by rubber bullets in the past, but it’s the Israeli military's addition of a new technology to its coutner-protest doctrine that has people talking now.
Field tested during protests along the Israeli/Syrian border, the IDF says the Amit laser designation system will help improve accuracy of IDF snipers using rubber bullets when trying to quell protesters.
During protests, snipers manned the Israeli/Syrian border to shoot rubber bullets at protesters to deter their crossing into Israel, but the snipers couldn’t get clear shots in some weather conditions.
Because the Amit can designate targets up to a kilometer away in any weather conditions, they began using the system to target protesters. Snipers aim the laser designator at the legs of a protestor, and then shoot for the laser.
A study published in 2000 in The Lancet examined Israel’s use of rubber bullets against Palestinians. The study said improper aiming was the cause for most serious injuries sustained from rubber bullets.
“Inaccuracy of rubber bullets and improper aiming and range of use resulted in severe injury and death in a substantial number of people. This ammunition should therefore not be considered a safe method of crowd control,” researchers concluded.
Despite the warning, Israel decided to continue using them, with hopes that the Amit will help make the process safer.
“Our goal was not to kill people but to shoot at the legs of the violent protesters who were trying to cross into Israel. This [Amit] made the shooting more accurate,” an IDF commander told the Jerusalem Post.
♦ Photo by Olly L from flickr (IDF soldiers lob tear gas over a fence at protesters.)