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U.S. doctor: IDF not using Dum-Dum bullets

But explains high-velocity rounds cause similar, devastating effects

By David Ratner, Ha'aretz Correspondent

Ha'aretz 11/17/2000

Dr. Robert Kirschner, a forensic pathologist at the medical school of the University of Chicago, wrote to colleagues in the Palestinian Authority this week, demanding that they cease using the term "Dum-Dum bullets" when describing injuries caused by shots fired by Israel Defense Forces soldiers. These bullets, which are banned by many international conventions, expand on impact, causing devastating damage to human bodies.

Kirschner, a member of Physicians for Human Rights in the United States, was reacting to a report, published in the press on Sunday, according to which a doctor at a hospital in Bethlehem claimed that an American photographer was injured in the city by a Dum-Dum bullet fired by the IDF.

Since the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada, the Palestinians have made repeated claims that the IDF is using Dum-Dum bullets; however, an investigation carried out by Ha'aretz and supported by a report compiled by Kirschner, shows these claims to be inaccurate.

Kirschner visited the territories two weeks ago and released a detailed report entitled "Evaluation of the Use of Force in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank - A Medical and Forensic Examination." The report - compiled with the help of Dr. Nizam Peerwani, a forensic pathologist, and Dr. James Cobey, an orthopedic surgeon - harshly criticizes the use of force by the IDF. Nevertheless, in the section dealing with ammunition, it determines that the Palestinian claim that Dum-Dum bullets are used is wrong.

The fact that the Palestinian doctors have had to deal with a large number of serious injuries and deaths, coupled perhaps with inexperience in the field of pathology, led them to determine that the IDF is using Dum-Dum bullets, the report says. Presumably, the PA's propaganda apparatus found it convenient not to correct the mistake.

As early as 1899, the Hague Convention outlawed the use of Dum-Dum bullets.

The original idea of the Dum-Dum bullet, which expands into the form of a mushroom on impact, led to the development of two main types of bullet: a soft-point bullet and a bullet with a hollow point, both of which are known as "expanding bullets." The use of such bullets by military forces is banned, but they are very popular among police forces and anti-terror units throughout the world, including Israel. Regulation military bullets are copper-coated and do not have any holes or exposed lead at their tips.The IDF denies that its soldiers, and particularly its snipers, are making use of expanding bullets. The IDF says it uses two types of bullets: 7.62-mm and 5.56-mm cartridges, which are used by "numerous organizations and armies around the world."

An examination conducted by Ha'aretz revealed that IDF snipers use M24 rifles that fire 7.62-mm cartridges manufactured by Israel Military Industries (IMI). The rounds for these cartridges are manufactured by an American company, Sierra, which shows in its catalog that these rounds have a hollow point. Dave Brown, of Sierra, says, however, that the bullet does not expand on impact. "It is not manufactured with the intention of expanding on impact because it is a bullet designed for accurate firing and an expanding bullet will always be less accurate," he says.

According to Brown, the U.S. government tested the bullet some eight years ago and ruled that it can be used for military purposes. "Our experience shows that it is very rare for the bullet to expand," Brown says. "It could happen in special circumstances."

The 5.56-mm cartridge that the IDF uses is not an expanding bullet.

According to Kirschner's report: "The confusion regarding the type of ammunition used by the IDF is not unusual in situations where high-velocity ammunition, not previously in common use, has been introduced ... The massive tissue destruction caused by the release of kinetic energy from this small projectile, which often disintegrates in the body, produces a frightening clinical presentation."

Apparently, a rifle bullet that strikes the human body at a velocity of more than 700 meters per second causes similar damage to that caused by an expanding bullet.

"A bullet that strikes tissue at a high velocity creates a shock-wave in the body," Kirschner says. "It was surprising to see that the most serious injuries were not caused by the sniper rifles, which fire 7.62-mm rounds. These bullets easily pass through the human body. The serious damage was caused by the 5.56-mm bullets ... the 5.56-mm rounds change direction in the body ... and the worst thing is that they break up inside the body. They leave along their path fragments of metal and a lead and copper 'dust' ... It is no wonder that with such damage, the Palestinians thought that they were being fired at with Dum-Dum bullets."

According to the president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who is responsible for gathering data on casualties in the PA, "It doesn't really matter whether they are using Dum-Dum bullets or not. We are now aware of the damage caused by high-velocity bullets, which behave like Dum-Dum rounds, even if they do not fit the definition. We are dealing with rifles that are intended for war, not for firing on civilians.

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