Last Updated Thu, 03 Nov 2005 16:05:26 EST
Medical groups and the United Nations have condemned Israel's low-altitude air force flights over the Gaza Strip as an abuse of human rights.
The Gaza Community Mental Health Program has joined with Physicians for Human Rights to file a petition at the country's Supreme Court seeking to stop the flights, which routinely break the sound barrier. They say the flights are a form of "collective punishment" against a civilian population, violating international law.
A child in Gaza (Getty Images)
The groups say the sonic booms cause nightmares and anxiety in children, while the region's number of spontaneous abortions has soared.
Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj, a Gaza psychiatrist, filed his medical opinion with the court documents citing evidence that the flights scare children, who are suffering from "depressive thoughts, glorification of violence, increased feelings of vulnerability and alertness."
The doctor points out the flights usually occur when children are going to and from school, resulting in their "poor concentration."
The report also refers to a Palestinian Ministry of Health figure of a 30 to 40 per cent increase in spontaneous abortions during the end of October, when the flights were at their peak.
The report warns the flights "will sow the seeds of hatred."
UN spokesman Khaled Abdul Shafi says the agency has already filed a letter of protest to the Israeli government.
According to The Independent newspaper, the Israeli military contends the flights are a less threatening alternative to using artillery. The Defence Ministry says the sonic booms are a "message to terrorists" and do not inflict long-term damage.
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