The Media Smoke Screen Obscuring Israel’s White Phosphorus War Crimes¶
The Israeli use of US supplied white phosphorus shells as air-burst incendiaries above the civilian population of Gaza is not only a barbaric crime against humanity but it’s an illegal war crime, however the corporate media coverage of this crime, is progressing very slowly, especially in the USA. The International Middle East Media Centre has a special, in-depth article on White Phosphorus and its use in Gaza.
Vittorio Arrigoni, in Gaza with Free Gaza/ISM has reported that “In front of Al Auda hospital we witnessed and filmed white phosphorous bombs being used about five hundred metres from where we were, too far to be absolutely certain there were any civilians underneath the Israeli Apaches, but so terribly close to us all the same.” He goes on to write “The Geneva Treaty of 1980 forbids white phosphorous being used directly as a war weapon in civilian areas, allowing it only as a smoke screen or for lighting. There’s no doubt that using this weapon in Gaza, a strip of land concentrating the highest population rate in the world, is a crime all on its own. Doctor Abdel told me that at Al Shifa hospital they don’t have the medical and military competence to say for sure whether the wounds they examined on certain corpses were indeed provoked by white phosphorous bullets.”
Human Rights Watch have reported that “On January 9, Human Rights Watch researchers on a ridge overlooking Gaza from the northwest observed multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired WP that appeared to be over the Gaza City/Jabaliya area.” They go on to say that “the technique evidenced in media photographs and viewed by Human Rights Watch researchers on January 9 [is one of] of air-bursting WP projectiles, which spreads the burning wafers over a wider area, thereby increasing the likelihood of civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects.” The conclude that “Human Rights Watch believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.” In the past there have been harsh critisisms of Human Rights Watch and their coverage of the conflict.
While the alternative media has had many reports of the use of white phosphorus there has been little coverage in the mainstream corporate media, especially in the US. The Times of London has been on of the few corporate media outlets that has run this story, on the 8th January they reported that “Photographic evidence has emerged that proves that Israel has been using controversial white phosphorus shells during its offensive in Gaza… There is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorus against civilians is prohibited under international law. The Times has identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from high-resolution images taken of Israel Defence Forces (IDF) artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border this week. The pale blue 155mm rounds are clearly marked with the designation M825A1, an American-made WP munition… There were indications last night that Palestinian civilians have been injured by the bombs, which burn intensely. Hassan Khalass, a doctor at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told The Times that he had been dealing with patients who he suspected had been burnt by white phosphorus. Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, an emergency medical technician in the city, said: “The burns are very unusual. They don’t look like burns we have normally seen. They are third-level burns that we can’t seem to control.” "
The lack of corporate media coverage in the US of Israel’s use of white phosphorus appears to be changing with the 12th January CNN and LA Times coverage. Meanwhile in Israel The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Amos Guiora, an “expert on international law” considers that “that proper leafleting – provided it really provided sufficient warning for civilians to flee – could be essential in defending Israel against such allegations”, allegations of the war crime of using white phosphorus against civilians.
In addition to white phosphorus the Newweapons Committee have reported that there is “Mounting evidence is emerging that Israel is experimenting new non-conventional weapons on civilian population in Gaza. “It is happening again what we saw in Lebanon two years ago”, says Paola Manduca, genetics teacher and researcher at the University of Genoa and member of New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC), “where Israel used white phosphorus, Dense inert metal explosive (DIME), thermobaric bombs, cluster bombs and uranium ammunitions. Still today there are unexploded bombs and radioactivity on the ground”. Emerging evidence now shows that at least some of these weapons are in use in the Gaza Strip, though it is not possible to verify this directly, due to the lack of access to the area. “The images of the dead and wounded and the news from witness coming from the area of aggresion show significant resemblance with those gathered and verified during the July – August war in 2006 in Lebanon”, explains Mrs Manduca. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor, member of a non- governmental organization Norwac, who works currently at the Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, denounces that “many arrive with extreme amputations, with both legs crushed”, wounds, he explains, “that I suspect are inflicted by Dime weapons”.
See also: Fallujah by the Sea: Aping America, Israel Unleashes Chemical Weapons in Gaza | White Phosphorus being used on Gaza | Phosphorus Bombs, the Slaughter of Innocents and Corporate Media Crimes | IMEMC Special: White Phosphorus and its use in Gaza
Need to add:
“The compound of the UN Relief and Works Agency was hit by what appeared to be three white phosphorous shells” 15 Jan: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/15/is...
UN: White Phosphorus Used in Attack; Fire Will Destroy Stockpile of Gaza Aid
United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesperson Christopher Gunness said the compound is burning with flames from white phosphorus shells.UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness: “There have been three hits on the UNRWA headquarters, the UNRWA compound in Gaza, including, I’m told by UNRWA head John Ging, white phosphorus. Three of our staff members have been injured. The workshop in our compound is in flames, and nearby are loaded fuel tankers. So the situation is extremely dangerous and extremely serious. We have been on the phone to the Israeli authorities, asking them to call off their fire from around the compound of a neutral international organization. We have not had the answer we want.”
The UN says the fire will burn down an entire warehouse storing thousands of tons of food, medical supplies and other aid.