Israel shells UN building in Gaza by 'white phosphorus'
A warehouse in a U.N. compound in Gaza that Israel shelled on Thursday was apparently hit by white-phosphorus shells, U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said.
The rights group Human Rights Watch has already accused Israel of using white phosphorus in Gaza.
A 1983 international convention prohibits the use of incendiary weapons against civilians.
Chris Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, said that the building had been used to shelter hundreds of people fleeing Israel's 20-day offensive in Gaza. He said that pallets with supplies desperately needed by Palestinians in Gaza were on fire.
"What more stark symbolism do you need?" he said. "You can't put out white phosphorus with traditional methods such as fire extinguishers. You need sand, we don't have sand."
"The main warehouse was badly damaged by what appeared to be white-phosphorus shells," Holmes told reporters at a news briefing in New York. "Those on the ground don't have any doubt that's what they were. If you were looking for confirmation, that looks like it to me."
The compound belongs to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
A separate attack hit a vocational training center in the compound, Holmes said. Three people were injured in the two attacks.
The attacks came as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was visiting Israel.
He expressed outrage over the shelling to Israeli leaders. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "apologized" to Ban.
Speaking by videolink from the shelled compound, John Ging, UNRWA's director of operations in Gaza, said the Israelis had not alleged to the agency during a meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday that there were militants in the compound.
"There were militants operating, they allege, in the area, but there were no militants or any firing from our compound. That's the official position of the Israeli authorities that deal with us," Ging told reporters.
The 15-nation council issued no formal statement.
Agencies Last Mod: 16 Ocak 2009, 12:23