During the afternoon hearings of the Goldstone Gaza fact-finding mission at the U.N. in Geneva today, Lt. Col. Raymond Lane, chief instructor in the Irish Defense Forces School, testified on weapons use by Hamas and Israel. Reuters reports here on his testimony, but misrepresents or takes out of context his statements on Israel’s use of certain weapons, as we note further on.
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Lt. Col. Lane had served in U.N. in Lebanon, the European Union in Bosnia, in Afghanistan, and other posts. He presented to the mission his comprehensive and referenced report, beginning with the chapter on Hamas rockets. He said these were Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that incorporate “destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic materials” that are radio-controlled and command-wire initiated. According to Lt. Col. Lane, 70% of global terror attacks use IEDs. As of last year in Afghanistan, 80% of the International Security Assistance Force casualties there resulted from such explosives.
These rockets take 90 seconds to emerge, position, and fire. He called them “crude” weapons that do not require much planning or training to use, but noted that Hamas’ technical expertise in their production is improving. The disadvantage to the users of IEDs is that their level of lethal damage is low compared to other means; their primary impact on the target is psychological. They are also extremely dangerous to manufacture, which causes some “own goals” and they frequently fail to detonate completely after they strike.
Lt. Col. Lane moved on to a discussion of combat strategy during the Israeli military incursions, emphasizing how the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) learned lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war, adapting to the insurgents’ techniques to significantly reduce soldiers’ casualties. Thus, the IDF burned roads and cut through walls to clear the routes of IEDs, making it difficult for Hamas to prepare attacks. It was also more careful to avoid exposure of its forces.
During combat in Gaza, Hamas used rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). They may have also had Explosive Formed Projectiles (EFPs) that had been extensively used in Lebanon. Lt. Col. Lane showed a photograph, presumably taken in a Gaza basement, of an EFP with a large diameter. He said if the EFP is indeed from Gaza, one could have a clear idea of “the threat awaiting Israelis when they went in there. EFP is one of most advanced forms of attack you can use on armor.”
Regarding Israeli weaponry, Lt. Col. Lane said that there is no evidence that Fuel Air rounds or thermobaric or cloud explosives were used. But there is evidence of Flechette rounds use, which has a doubly adverse effect on their targets as, upon impact, the round bends into a hoop and can break causing additional wounds and injuries. Lt. Col. Lane also said that Israel used Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that have amazing precision, and may be the world’s leader in this device.
He said there is no proof that Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) rounds were used, but he is “of view that some weapons systems used in the conflict had some sort of DIME component,” citing evidence of tungsten, iron, and sulfur in samples analyzed in a forensic lab in Dublin.
However, Lt. Col. Lane made it clear the intent of Israel if it did indeed use these weapons was to “reduce the effect on the ground” i.e. reduce civilian casualties considering that DIME weapons have the effect of shooting the metal fragments out in a short radius with those outside the radius facing no threat (Reuters failed to note this). But DIME weapons are controversial because they are still in their experimental phase, and those within the area of dispersal will experience catastrophic injuries, possibly leading to multiple amputations.
Ms. Hina Jilani of the fact-finding mission asked about the implications of DIME use in densely populated civilian areas. Lt. Col. Lane replied that “fighting in civilian areas is extremely difficult, especially when the population has nowhere to go.” He said there would be casualties by using DIME munitions in built-up areas with lots of people.
Regarding white phosphorous: Lt. Col. Lane said Ireland stopped using the weapon 20 years ago. He told the story of how the Irish army once dumped it off the coast, but a storm washed it onto the beach. People reported seeing spontaneous fires, flashing and burning, and a child was burnt.
“It’s horrible stuff,” Lt. Col. Lane said, but in no way did he imply that Israel used the weapon inappropriately (this is unclear in the Reuters story). He noted that white phosphorous is used for smoke generation to hide from the enemy. “The quality of smoke produced by white phosphorous is superb. If you want real smoke for real coverage, white phosphorus will give it to you,” he said. In the face of EFPs and time-initiated rockets, the weapon could also be effective at pushing people away and burning the enemy’s devices, he noted.