Weapons and munitions appropriate to some situations can be used in ways that constitute illegal and excessive use of force when used in ways or for purposes for which they were not intended. Rubber bullets, according to IDF regulations, are to be used only at distances not less than forty meters, only aimed at the legs and lower body, never used against children, and only when there is a clear threat to life. IDF regulations also specify that rubber bullets should be used only when measures of lesser severity are unavailable to prevent a threat to the public welfare and when their use does not endanger innocent people. The cases investigated by Human Rights Watch confirm the reported findings of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations indicating that rubber bullets, as well as plastic-coated metal bullets and live ammunition, have been used routinely in an illegal and indiscriminate manner, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians.
Palestinian medical doctors in Gaza and the West Bank told Human Rights Watch that victims in the clashes since September 30 have had wounds caused by an unusually large caliber of ammunition. X-rays, bullet fragments, and bullets examined by Human Rights Watch indicate IDF use of medium-caliber bullets fired by machine guns. These military munitions, approximately two-and-one-half inches in length and half an inch in diameter, are ordinarily used for penetrating concrete walls and other hard-surface barriers. They consist of a steel payload encased in a copper jacket that peels off banana-like when the core hits an object. When used against persons, as they were at Netzarim Junction, they cause huge wounds that are extremely difficult to treat, and leave inch-long pieces of shrapnel in the body. The use of such massive, indiscriminate weapons is inappropriate in crowd-control and law-enforcement situations and unlawful.