by Tony Cross
Article published on the 2009-01-20 Latest update 2009-02-09 18:01 TU
Palestinian women react after their relative Billal Nabham was found dead underneath the rubble in Gaza
International human rights group Amnesty International has issued a report saying that the Israeli Army used white phosphorus on civilians. The group based the report on the work of a fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip last Saturday.
"Amnesty International's delegates found still-burning white phosphorus wedges all around residential buildings on Sunday," says the group.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say they have proof of the chemical’s use in Gaza.
Yael Stein, Research Director at the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, explained the effects of white phosphorous on the human body to RFI.
"White phosphorus causes awful burns, it's incredibly hard to treat, even if you just touch it, it causes awful burns on the skin, which of course is severe suffering. I don't think it's bearable."
Stein says that her group has talked to doctors and other medical staff who confirm that they have treated its effects.
The Israeli army denies the charge.
"It's not true," says military spokesperson Olivier Rafovitch. "The army is only using legal weaponry and, by the way, we found a week ago that Hamas combatant terrorists have used phosphorus once when they fired mortar rockets against one of our village in the area of Eshkol."
"We are not using white phosphorus or any illegal matter in this operation," Rafovitch insists.
B’Tselem’s Stein finds the military’s denials ridiculous.
"Of course it came from the Israeli army," she says. "There was one day they said Hamas threw one rocket to Israel and that was with a little bit of white phosphorus. They had such a report, but it can only come from the Israeli army."
Rafovitch insists that the question s not even worth posing.
"The army is an army like any army of any democracy in the world, where we engage the enemy according to the rules of engagement ... we are only using legal weapons."
With UN officials demanding an enquiry into allegations of war crimes during the Gaza operation, the use of banned weaponry is bound to come under close international scrutiny very soon.
2009-01-26 10:04 TU