Israel's Sonic Booms Terrifies Gaza Children

It's Israel's latest weapon: Without notice, an Israeli jet fighter flies low over the densely populated Gaza Strip, breaking the sound barrier.

The massive sonic boom often breaks windows, shakes entire apartment buildings and terrifies the people of Gaza.

Just about every night for the last five months, 10-year-old Basma Abid Adiam has had trouble sleeping.

Her father says during the day she often seems distant. Basma's problems started when the Israeli air force began breaking the sound barrier almost nightly over her home.

On the fourth floor of her family's apartment building, surrounded by her brothers and sisters, Basma said shyly, "We are afraid when we hear the boom. I wet my bed. During the day when we go to school, we are afraid and try to hide."

Responding to Rocket Attacks Against Israelis

Since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip last September, a small group of Palestinian militants has been using the northern Gaza area to launch homemade rockets at Israel.

The Palestinian authority has either been unable or unwilling to stop the attacks. The Israel army says it has to take action.

The almost nightly sonic booms are the Israeli air force's attempt to turn the Palestinian population against the militants in Gaza and help stop the attacks.

Targeting innocent civilians violates the Geneva Conventions. Both Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have asked the Israeli High Court to stop the air force from this practice.

Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist in Gaza, says it is the children who are harmed the most.

"For children under the age of 6, large noise means danger, a danger to life," he said. "This is definitely a form of collective punishment, which under international law is prohibited and considered a war crime."

But Rannan Gissim, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defends the tactic. "The inconvenience that it causes the Palestinian population cannot be measured against the question of life or death for Israelis on the other side."

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