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Israel's use of non-conventional weapons in Gaza

Posted on: Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Keywords: Palestine, Israel, Peace Building, Middle East, Emergency Relief, Gaza

An update from our sister organization in Gaza, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS):

There is growing evidence that the Israeli army is using non-conventional weapons in its assault on Gaza according to a report released on Friday 9 January by an Italian research group, the New Weapons Committee. Paola Manduca, a genetics teacher and researcher at the University of Genoa, and a member of the New Weapons Research Committee, draws comparisons between the Israeli tactics of its current offensive on Gaza and that against Lebanon in 2006 'where Israel used white phosphorus, Dense inert metal explosive (DIME), thermobaric bombs, cluster bombs and uranium ammunitions'.

Although it is very difficult to verify this usage directly, due to the lack of access to the Gaza Strip, images emerging from the area point to those conclusions, along with the testimonies of the doctors present. According to Manduca, 'the images and the testimonies that have resulted from the conflict show significant resemblance with those gathered and verified in the July and August conflict in 2006 in Lebanon'. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor working alongside the PMRS volunteer doctors at the Shifa hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, observed that 'many arrive with extreme amputations with both legs crushed' – injures which he suspects are inflicted by Dime weapons. Furthermore, the burns suffered currently by some of the children in Gaza are very similar to those documented by doctors during the Lebanon war, when Israel admitted to using white phosphorus.  

White phosphorus is banned under the 1980 Geneva Convention on Conventional Weapons when used against civilians or in civilian areas, but its use is not banned under international law if used as a smokescreen. The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, which is one of the world's most densely populated areas, is likely to cause yet more casualties and fatalities as civilians are unable to escape the attacks. Human Rights Watch researchers reported on 9 and 10 January that they had 'observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over what appeared to be the Gaza City/Jabaliya area'.

White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon which bursts into a deep-yellow smoke when it is exposed to oxygen, producing a thick white smoke. It can burn houses, and can in worst cases be fatal, and causes almost always second or third-degree burns, as the particles do not stop burning when in contact with skin but burn until they have completely disappeared, often reaching the bones. 

To view this statement on the PMRS website, go here.

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