Human rights groups sue to stop Israeli sonic booms over Gaza

Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups filed suit Wednesday to compel the Israeli air force to stop causing sonic booms over Gaza, citing psychological damage and calling the practice "collective punishment."

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program appealed to Israel's Supreme Court to stop the supersonic flights.

The Israeli military had no comment. "Because the subject is before the Supreme Court, the response will be given in that framework," the army spokesman's office said.

Israeli warplanes set off sonic booms over Gaza at all hours of the day and night, though they refrain from supersonic flights over Israel.

The head of the Gaza group, Dr. Eyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist, wrote in a medical opinion that the sonic booms have serious effects on Gaza children, including anxiety, panic, fear, poor concentration and low academic success, according to a statement. He also said that the number of spontaneous abortions increases during periods of frequent sonic booms.

Israel has long used sonic booms to rattle Palestinians in times of tension and violence, maintaining the practice since its pullout from Gaza in September. The booms can be mistaken for one of Israel's frequent missile attacks aimed at militants or weapons factories.

In the statement, the two groups said that according to international law, "the booms are collective punishment against the civilian population and thus illegal.", AP reported. V.A.