B'Tselem added, "other rules of humanitarian law render their use in the Gaza Strip illegal. One of the most fundamental principles is the obligation to distinguish between those who are involved and those who are not involved in the fighting, and to avoid to the extent possible injury to those who are not involved. Deriving from this principle is the prohibition of the use of an imprecise weapon which is likely to result in civilian injuries.
In a conversation caught on an open microphone before an interview, Kerry made what seemed to be a sarcastic remark about Israel's insistence it was doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in operations against Hamas militants. It's a hell of a pinpoint operation," he said during the call, which was broadcast on Fox News Sunday.
Published time: 21 Jul, Get short URL. Follow RT on. The Israeli military has been accused of using flechette shells during its offensive in Gaza, which can cause widespread harm and death to civilians.
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It was a sign that the village was under the control of the enemy — and that combat was imminent. Scanning the mud-walled fortress-like compounds, Hunter and his co-pilot could see that Rahim Kalay in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, had become a ghost town. It looked like the civilians had been ordered to stay put to provide human shields for the enemy mortar units, and now that game was over they were moving out en masse so the real fighting could begin.
If this were so, then the advancing British troops on the ground would be walking straight into an ambush. Two hours earlier, a murderous barrage of mortar fire had erupted out of the apparently peaceful village.
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The British ground troops had been pinned down and taken casualties. Ten minutes after we left, ground troops would get a load more mortar rounds raining down on them from that location. It was a game of cat and mouse. We were totally frustrated. Critics argued the money could have been better spent on kit and armoured vehicles for ground troops. The British AH1 version is fitted with powerful Rolls-Royce engines and an unrivalled missile-defence system and radar.
The deployment of eight aircraft in Afghanistan was their first real test in combat, after training in Salisbury and the wilds of Arizona. The Apache helicopter squadrons had been deployed to Helmand Province to open up the battlefield and to support a more mobile form of soldiering. With the village apparently deserted, the Apaches would now have to flush the enemy out of hiding. Hunter put himself into the mind of the enemy, trying to imagine how he would ambush the British troops. He scanned the track leading into the village, the route of advance of the British soldiers.
Hunter spotted a white vehicle parked right at the apex of a fork in the road. It immediately struck him as being odd. No Afghan would ever have parked in that way. It was in the full sun and would already be like a furnace inside. It was a smart, white estate car, and any soldier advancing into Rahim Kalay would be forced to pass right by it. Hunter had seen the terrible effects of such weapons during his time in Northern Ireland.
He punched the co-ordinates of the vehicle into his flight computer.
But first they needed to find the enemy. A British Harrier jet had joined them overhead, circling at altitude, and with its help a plan was hatched to fox the enemy. We asked the Harrier to check for any movement in the compound adjacent to the car. The two Apaches turned west and left Rahim Kalay. Once they were out of sight, they dropped down to treetop height, powering back in towards the village at low level.
As they did so, the Harrier pilot came up on the radio. Sure enough, figures had emerged. There were four of them — and they were all males of fighting age. The Apaches hugged the contours of the ground, remaining hidden until the very last moment. At less than a mile out, they power-climbed to altitude, their cameras catching a figure in the open. A male dressed in black robes had taken up a vantage point that overlooked the British positions. A few yards to his left, leaning against a wall, was a regular-shaped object wrapped in a thick blanket.
This was possibly a weapons bundle. We continued to watch the figure closely. The Apache pilots discussed what they could see. If the British troops advanced into the village they would be directly in the line of fire of these figures. There were only three visible, but how many more were hidden? This had all the hallmarks of a classic Taliban ambush, with weapons wrapped in cloth to disguise them from watching eyes above.
Ugly Five Zero radioed the Joint Terminal Attack Controller the ground soldier co-ordinating air power, call sign Widow 79 and asked for permission to open fire. Prior to combat the men had been given in-depth briefings on the rules of engagement, which identified the main legitimate target types. Any decision to open fire was taken with those rules in mind. We knew full well that our actions would be reviewed at the end of the battle, and that the tapes would be available to any inquiries.
As the pilots waited for clearance, an overweight male emerged from a building, making hand signals in the direction of the British troops.
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From the underside of Ugly Five Zero, the 30mm cannon barked, and its spent shell casings rained down below. One figure turned away, putting his arms behind his back as if on a leisurely stroll. Both aircraft then opened fire, two round bursts tearing into the position, the 30mm shells throwing up mud and shrapnel.
Figures came running out of the dust storm, abandoning their blanket-bundles in their haste to escape. The figures paused momentarily, and as they did so the Apaches hit them again. Four sprinted for cover,. The survivors split up, running in opposite directions. The guns of the Apaches tracked them, firing round bursts, shrapnel exploding at their heels.
A figure sprinted towards a gate and a smaller structure on the far side, which would turn out to be an arms dump. He clutched an AK assault rifle in one hand. Enemy fighters made for the cover of a pair of dome-roofed buildings.
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From just over a mile out, the Apaches lined up for a Hellfire missile strike. Keeping their laser sights aimed at the centre of each target, Tim Porter and Alex Wagner, the Apache gunners, pulled the triggers on their pistol-grip controls. Four seconds later two massive explosions threw up plumes of smoke and debris. As the dust cleared, a gaping hole in each roof showed where the Hellfires had hit. Survivors streamed out of the buildings.
All of a sudden, the enemy compound was alive with armed fighters.
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He sprinted out of the gate, Ugly Five One tracking him as he ran. A round burst slammed into the earth and the figure disappeared in a cloud of dust. As the dust cleared the figure was spotted crawling for a small, crescent-shaped patch of shadow at the base of the wall.
His arm shot out, grabbed the machine gun, and he rolled inside, disappearing completely from view. Either his heart was still pumping on pure adrenaline or the Taliban fighters were drugged with amphetamines. Where had the wounded fighter gone? It was the entrance to a cave.
The camera panned along the base of the wall and picked out a series of four similar openings — a network of caves clearly ran beneath the compound. The aircrew of Ugly Five Zero spotted a figure running out of a building. Hunter flicked the gunnery controls to manual, the 30mm cannon instantly following his eye line. He glanced at the target, selected a range of 1, yards and pulled the trigger. He fired off three round bursts at the feet of the running fighter, who then tumbled to the ground.
Two more came charging out, one with a PKM, making for the cover of some nearby trees. Ugly Five One flew out into the open desert to prepare for a rocket attack on the woodland. James put the aircraft into a shallow dive so it was heading directly at the target. The tungsten darts would be released in a funnel of death large enough to saturate the entire wood. The flechettes tore towards the target at a speed in excess of Mach 1, making a high-pitched howling noise.
Darts punctured tree trunks and punched their way through branches, shards of wood spitting skywards as if a giant chainsaw was chewing up the tree line.