AMNESTY International has said that Israel’s use during the Gaza offensive of white phosphorus – banned under international law for use near civilians – was “clear and undeniable”.
Tension eased in Gaza early yesterday as a fragile ceasefire entered its third day. There were no reports of shooting or rockets for the first time since Israel launched its massive assault on the besieged territory on December 27.
“Amnesty International delegates visiting the Gaza Strip found indisputable evidence of widespread use of white phosphorus in densely-populated residential areas in Gaza City and in the north,” the rights group said.
“We saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army,” said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert touring Gaza as part of a four-person fact-finding team. Human rights groups and medics in Gaza reported treating dozens of people suffering burns caused by white phosphorus during Israel’s 22-day offensive in Gaza that killed more than 1300 people.
– Arabs: Israel ammo in Gaza had depleted uranium (AP)
– Gaza doctors struggle to treat deadly burns consistent with white phosphorus (Guardian)
– UN Says More than 50000 Left Homeless in Gaza Following Israeli Attacks (TransWorldNews)
– Israel: Report of Gaza mortar fire incorrect (AP)
– Robert Fisk: So, I asked the UN secretary general, isn’t it time for a war crimes tribunal? (Independent)
– Gaza ‘looks like earthquake zone’ (BBC News)
– Ban ‘appalled’ by Gaza’s damage (BBC News)
– Amid dust and death, a family’s story speaks for the terror of war (Guardian):
48 members of the Samouni family were killed in one day when Israel’s battle with Hamas suddenly centred on their homes
– Israel destroys, Saudi rebuilds (Middle East Online):
Saudi King donates one billion dollars to rebuild Gaza, calls for putting end to Arab rifts.
– Israel to keep tight grip on Gaza reconstruction (Reuters)
– Israel accused of war crimes over 12-hour assault on Gaza village (The Observer)
Under international law, white phosphorus is banned for use near civilians, but is permitted for creating a smokescreen.
Israel has insisted that all weapons used in its Gaza war were within the bounds of international law.
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, said the use of white phosphorus could amount to a war crime.
Mr Cobb-Smith added: “Artillery is an area weapon; not good for pinpoint targeting. The fact that these munitions, which are usually used as ground burst, were fired as air bursts increases the likely size of the danger area.”
The group said that one of the places worst affected by the use of white phosphorus was the United Nations Relief and Works Agency compound in Gaza City, where Israeli forces fired three white phosphorus shells on January 15.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to visit Gaza overnight to survey the damage, the first visit by a foreign leader to the impoverished territory since Hamas defeated forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas there in June 2007.
Mr Ban was also to visit the southern Israeli town of Sderot, five kilometres from the Gaza border, which has borne the brunt of rocket fire from Gaza since 2001.
Arab nations have also accused Israel of using ammunition containing depleted uranium in Gaza.
In a letter on behalf of Arab ambassadors accredited in Austria, the Saudi ambassador, Prince Mansour al-Saud, expressed “our deep concern regarding the information … that traces of depleted uranium have been found in Palestinian victims”.
The Israeli army declined to comment.
January 21, 2009
Source: The Age