[FoRK] Gazans struggle through indiscriminate sonic boom raids

Damien Morton < fork at bitfurnace.com > on > Wed Jul 5 08:18:24 PDT 2006


DOCTORS in Gaza say that a combination of Israeli bombardment, sonic 
boom attacks and economic warfare is leading to a serious deterioration 
in public health, with children and pregnant women most vulnerable.

Obstetricians at Gaza City's Shifa Hospital say there has been a spike 
in miscarriages, premature births and stillbirths since the capture of 
Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on June 
25 led to a further escalation in conflict.

They believe the main cause is Israel's reintroduction of sonic boom 
attacks in recent days in a bid to terrify Gaza's 1.4 million people and 
prevent them from sleeping.

At various hours of day and night the Israeli Air Force has sent its 
supersonic jets to break the sound barrier at low level over Gaza, which 
has no air defences, producing massive concussions over a wide area.

The effect is stunning, akin to being beside a very large bomb, and can 
produce panic attacks, shock and nosebleeds.

"The sonic booms, combined with all the other stress, have a bad effect 
on the health of pregnant women," said Dr Adnan Radi, a senior obstetrician.

"The explosions can lead to premature contraction of the uterus and 
premature delivery of the baby. Whenever there is this booming the next 
day we see a rise in the number of premature deliveries and miscarriages."

At Shifa doctors say that the number of women presenting with 
miscarriages or premature labour has risen from two to four a day on 
average to as many as 10. In the past 10 days there have been three 
stillbirths; normally they might see one every six months.

Israel began to use sonic booms against the people of Gaza last year, 
shortly after it withdrew its troops and 7500 Jewish settlers from 
inside the crowded Palestinian enclave.

Israeli security officials have sought to portray the booms as a 
"non-lethal" and humane weapon designed to persuade civilians to force 
militants to stop firing missiles at neighbouring Israeli communities 
and, more recently, to free Corporal Shalit.

There was outrage last November when the Israeli Air Force inadvertently 
caused sonic booms over Israel, leading to widespread civilian panic.

Areesh Bahja, 26, said the sonic booms were severely distressing for her 
three children, aged between five years and five months.

"They are very frightened lately. They are very tired and very upset and 
they get sick and vomit very easily. They've lost a lot of their 
appetite," she said.

"When they are watching TV and there is a sonic boom they jump up like 
they are on springs and they grab hold of me. They act out a lot and I'm 
finding it more difficult to control them."

Her five-year-old daughter Layan said: "When the sound isn't big I'm not 
afraid, but when it's a big one it scares me and gives me a pain in my 

As she speaks, another Israeli 155 millimetre shell drops a kilometre or 
so away, close enough to make the walls of the house ring.

"That's the sound of a shell," Layan says disdainfully. "I'm not scared 
of that."

At Shifa hospital, doctors say the sonic weapon compounds stress 
resulting from years of violence and poverty and months of de facto 
Israeli economic blockade.

More recently, humanitarian aid has been cut off and staff wages unpaid 
because of the West's decision to join Israel in boycotting the new 
Hamas Government in the Palestinian Authority. Last week, Israeli 
aircraft knocked out Gaza's only power plant, disrupting supplies to 
most of the strip.

"We've had to halt all elective and non-emergency surgery," said the 
hospital's director of public relations, Dr Jumaa al Saqqa. "We are now 
working only as an emergency room because of the shortages, and we've 
also evacuated all the hospital beds to be ready for the coming Israeli 

"The number of people with cardiac problems has increased because of the 
sonic booms and the stress of life.

"There is also a noticeable increase in gastroenteritis-type symptoms 
because of poor food and because the power cuts mean people can't 
refrigerate their food properly any more."

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