Israel reverses Gaza phosphorus denial, 'disciplines' soldiers

Israel admitted it used banned weapons during 22-day Gaza offensive in a response to a UN report that accuses the country of war crimes.

Israel reverses Gaza phosphorus denial, 'disciplines' soldiers


World Bulletin / News Desk

Israel admitted it used banned weapons during 22-day Gaza offensive in a response to a UN report over artillery shelling in a heavily populated area that hit a United Nations compound during the offensive.

An Israeli newspaper says the military has disciplined two high-ranking officers for approving the use of white phosphorous shells during the Gaza offensive last year.

The admissions were made in a document answering findings from the Goldstone report. The report, which was compiled by a panel led by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, had already been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council, which sponsored the fact-finding commission.

The Goldstone report, has called on both Israel and the Palestinians to investigate accusations of human-rights violations committed during the conflict. Most of the criticism in the Goldstone report was directed towards Israel's conduct during the offensive.

Haaretz says a military probe concluded the Gaza division commander and a brigade commander "endangered human life by firing the highly incendiary munitions toward a compound run by a U.N. aid agency."

The main damage to U.N. property in Gaza came on Jan. 15 when Israeli shells, some containing white phosphorus, hit a compound of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), badly damaging a warehouse and training center. Several U.N.-run schools were hit in other strikes.

Israel also bombed hospitals, schools, mosques and government buildings and destroyed infrastructure system in Gaza, lefting Palestinians without electricity, gas and power.

According to the daily, Gaza Division Commander Brigadier General Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade Commander Colonel Ilan Malka, were the subject of "disciplinary action" after headquarters staff found that the men "exceeded their authority" in approving the use of phosphorus shells that endangered human life, the Israeli government report said.

But it did not specify any punishment. The military spokesman's office had no immediate comment on Monday.

The reports come as a deadline looms for Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to address the General Assembly with his own report on Gaza in next Friday.

"Isolated incident"

However, Human rights groups accuse Israel of being a systematic, random and wide-ranging use of the chemical.

Analysts say, whereas, the Israeli report just focuses on only isolated incident and two individuals being disciplined, ignoring that hundreds of people in Gaza were burned by white phosphorous during that military campaign a year ago.

Israeli forces deliberately attacked civilians, failed to take precautions to minimize loss of civilian life and cited strong evidence Israeli forces committed grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, the 575-page report noted.

The firing of white phosphorous shells and the use of high explosive artillery shells were listed as "violations of humanitarian law."

"There were numerous instances of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects in violation of the fundamental international humanitarian law principle of distinction, resulting in deaths and serious injuries," the report noted.

Hamas said in an explanation to the UN report, three Israeli civilians killed in rocket attacks during Israel's Gaza offensive last year were hit "by mistake."

A ceasefire was declared on January 18 after the Israeli assault left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, many of them women and children. Three Israeli civilians and 10 soldiers were also killed.


Israel had prevented international journalists from entering the Gaza Strip during its bombardment.

An Israeli spokeswoman strongly denied the Human Rights Watch report at the time, saying "all its munitions complied with the law."

There was "strong evidence that Israeli forces committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in Gaza, including wilful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, or extensive destruction of property," the report added.

"I deny this completely," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, adding that such allegations were "no more than a recurring motif of anti-Israel propaganda".

White phosphorus sticks to human skin and will burn right through to the bone, causing death or leaving survivors with painful wounds which are slow to heal.

The international convention on the use of incendiary weapons says it should not be used where civilians are concentrated.

The Israeli military also has used phosphorus shells in the past, during its bombardment of Lebanon in 2006.

The Israeli military was slammed for its tactics in 2006, including the widespread use of cluster munitions in the final hours before a ceasefire came into effect.

Last Mod: 01 Şubat 2010, 12:25
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