As calls are crying louder for an international probe into Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, Israel admitted Saturday, January 24, using white phosphorous, a chemical that burns away human flesh to the bone, in shelling the densely-populated strip.
"Yes, phosphorus was used but not in any illegal manner," Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told The Times.
"Some practices could be illegal but we are going into that."
The Israeli Ministry of Defense confirmed the use of white phosphorous in bombing Gaza, saying it has been used only for making smokescreens.
"Everyone knew we were using it, and everyone else uses it. We didn’t think it would get this much attention," an Israeli defense official said on condition of anonymity.
Israel has repeatedly denied using the controversial chemical during the Gaza offensive, which killed more than 1350 people including 437 children, and wounded over 5,450 others.
The use of white phosphorus as a weapon, even against military targets situated within population centers, is banned by the 1980 third Convention on Conventional Weapons.
Amnesty International, which considers the use of white phosphorous in heavily-populated areas a war crime, said it has found many phosphorous particles in civilian areas, including Gaza’s Al-Quds hospital.
The UNRWA compound in Gaza City was also among places hit by white phosphorus shells when Israeli troops fired three shells at the compound on January 15.
Israel has used white phosphorous bombs against civilian targets many times.
The Israeli army has admitted before using white phosphorus munitions during its 34-day war on Lebanon in 2006.
The US, Israel’s chief ally, also used white phosphorus munitions during the siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004 and also defended its act.
The white phosphorus shells cause human flesh to burn to the bone.
"It hurts me terribly, my skin is burning," said Sabah Abu Halima, whose house in northern town of Beit Lahiya was hit by an Israeli white phosphorous shell on January 5.
The attack left five of her family killed and four others, including herself, wounded.
At Al-Shifa hospital, survivors recount how their wounds began smoking when they washed them or took off their bandages, as white phosphorus remains active for a long time and continues to burn whenever trying to smother it.
"I don’t sleep any more, neither day nor night," Abu Halima added in the burns unit of Al-Shifa hospital.
British weapons expert Chris Cobb-Smith, who has been in Gaza since last week to investigate Israel’s use of white phosphorous bombs, said there was no excuse for Israel to use such incendiary weapons against civilians.
"There is absolutely no military, tactical reason for the use of white phosphorus in this environment," Cobb-Smith said.
"Obviously it’s going to cause physical harm as well because it can kill people and it can destroy property.
"I believe it’s just being purely used as a weapon of terror to frighten, to intimidate people."
(IslamOnline.net and News Agencies)