Israeli use of white phosphorus in Gaza war crimes: Amnesty

Among the places worst-affected by use of white phosphorous was the U.N. Relief and Works Agency compound in Gaza, Amnesty said.

Israeli use of white phosphorus in Gaza war crimes: Amnesty

Human rights group Amnesty International 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.

But Amnesty's statements were made on the basis of an on-the-ground study by a British weapons expert following the ceasefire put into force by Israel and Hamas on Sunday.

Weapons expert Chris Cobb-Smith, who visited Gaza as part of a four-person Amnesty team, said he had found widespread evidence of the use of the incendiary material.

"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," he said in a statement.

"White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield. It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it should never be used on civilian areas," he said.

Among the places worst-affected by use of white phosphorous was the U.N. Relief and Works Agency compound in Gaza, Amnesty said.

Israel shelled the compound on Jan. 15, causing widespread damage. The U.N. at the time said Israel used white phosphorus.

Israel faces claims in international courts for its assault in Gaza.

Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said on Monday she was "at peace" with the actions Israel had taken during the assault, but also said the nation should be prepared to face international condemnations over Gaza war crimes.


Agencies

Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2009, 12:38
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