IAEA to probe Israeli use of uranium ammunition in Gaza offensive

Human rights group Amnesty International also accused Israel of war crimes by its indiscriminate and illegal use of white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza.

IAEA to probe Israeli use of uranium ammunition in Gaza offensive

Arabic states have filed charges with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the weapons Israel used in its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip contained partially-enriched uranium, an official said Tuesday evening.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday it would look into a demand by Vienna-based Arab ambassadors that Israel used ammunition containing depleted uranium in Gaza attacks.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the request was made in a letter addressed to Director General Mohammed ElBaradei and was delivered by the Saudi Arabian ambassador on Monday on behalf of other Arab diplomats.

"We are circulating the letter to member states and will investigate the matter to the extent of our ability," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.

She said the IAEA had not yet decided on its course of action as it needs to check with member states first.

Human rights group Amnesty International also accused Israel of war crimes on Monday, saying its use of white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and illegal.

White phosphorus is a high-incendiary substance that burns very brightly and for long periods. It frequently is used to produce smoke screens, but can also be used as a weapon, producing extreme burns if it makes contact with skin.

"Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza's densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate," Donatella Rovera, a Middle East researcher with Amnesty International, said in a statement.

"Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," she said.

Israel said last week "all weapons" used during its three-week offensive in Gaza.

Amnesty is not the first group to tell that Israel used white phosphorus -- Human Rights Watch made the statement on Jan. 10, in the midst of the assault, and the United Nations also said it believed the munition had been used.

Agencies

Last Mod: 21 Ocak 2009, 12:23
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