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MENA: Israel and the Use of White Phosphorous in Gaza

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Response, War & Conflict, Youth

The world is looking on in shock at the devastating photographs taken of Gaza victims – some of whom are deformed beyond recognition. Human Rights Watch [1] is also calling upon Israel to stop the unlawful use of White Phosphorus in its war on Gaza.

From Egypt, Zeinobia [2] writes:

It became something well known that Israel is using the phosphoric bombs [3]. Just watching the images of the burns in the Palestinian dead bodies in the first week was enough to know that they are using the phosphoric bombs not even the cluster bombs [4] we know that they used in Lebanon.
But of course as a simple blogger I could not know that the IDF is using Phosphoric bomb, at first I thought they were experimenting some new bombs on the poor Gazans then I thought of their favorite cluster bombs.
Even international newspapers like the Times spoke about the matter [5].

Of course Israel denied that dangerous allegation of using internationally banned weapons against the citizens of Gaza. First of all it is targeting the so-called terrorists of Hamas and second these bombs are smoke bombs [6] !!
They can say whatever they want but they can’t change the truth however they tried.

Gaza bombings
Smoke rising above Gaza after an Israeli attack. Photo credit: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi [7]

According to Human Rights Watch [1]:

On January 9 and 10, 2009, Human Rights Watch researchers in Israel observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.
Human Rights Watch believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.
Since the beginning of Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza on January 3, 2009, there have been numerous media reports about the possible use of white phosphorous by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF told both Human Rights Watch and news reporters that it is not using white phosphorus in Gaza. On January 7, an IDF spokesman told CNN, “I can tell you with certainty that white phosphorus is absolutely not being used.”

Palestinian Laila El-Hadad [8], whose parents are currently in Gaza, adds:

Residents in Gaza have been talking about an unprecedented amount of force being unleashed against them by the Israeli army- but they have also spoken about new kinds of weaponry. It comes as no surprise-Gaza has always been Israel's “testing ground” – from nerve agents [9] used in Khan Younis in 2003 to Sonic Boom “phantom air raids”. Now, there is talk of cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and white phosphorus.

And these are only the ones people can identify. CNN correspondents stationed near the borders have also been talking about new kinds of explosions.

Norwegian medics say that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies, according to Press TV [10].

There are also reports that the Israeli Army is using both cluster bombs in the northern part of the Strip, as well as White Phosphorus [3], an incendiary weapon used by the United States in Iraq (which would explain the large flare-like explosions unseen before in Gaza).

She also details her father’s description – as a doctor – of the injured people he examined in Gaza:

My father yesterday treated patients in Shifa hospital exposed to some of these ordnances. The description he gave was as follows:

“There were a series of bombs in a row, a large white halo, followed by white smoke which caused severe irritation and inability to breathe; the exposed areas become red, blistered all over the skin, and itchy.”

On a different note, another blogger, The Rag bag [11], quoted from Times Online [12] states a few facts about the White Phosphorous bombs:

- White phosphorus: the smoke-screen chemical that can burn to the bone

— White phosphorus bursts into a deep-yellow flame when it is exposed to oxygen, producing a thick white smoke

— It is used as a smokescreen or for incendiary devices, but can also be deployed as an anti-personnel flame compound capable of causing potentially fatal burns

— Phosphorus burns are almost always second or third-degree because the particles do not stop burning on contact with skin until they have entirely disappeared — it is not unknown for them to reach the bone

— Geneva conventions ban the use of phosphorus as an offensive weapon against civilians, but its use as a smokescreen is not prohibited by international law

— Israel previously used white phosphorus during its war with Lebanon in 2006

— It has been used frequently by British and US forces in recent wars, notably during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its use was criticized widely

Meanwhile, at the Egyptian-Gaza border town of Rafah, Egyptian blogger and human rights activist Nora Younis [13] reports on Twitter:

Nora Younis Tweet