Monday, January 12, 2009

Israelis rain white phosphorous bombs over Gaza

posted by Free Press Houston @ 8:14 AM

Mel Frykberg
Courtesy of
RAMALLAH (IPS) - "There is no doubt that Israel is using phosphorous bombs over Gaza. Israel is flagrantly violating the Fourth Geneva Convention," says Raji Sourani, head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza.

"This is not the first time we have documented Israel using this kind of prohibited weapon against Gaza's civilian population," Sourani told IPS on phone from Gaza.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) confirmed Sourani's assessment in a statement it released on Friday. Its researchers said they had seen "multiple air-bursts of artillery-fired white phosphorous over Gaza City."

"I've been on the border for the last few days watching the Israeli artillery firing white phosphorus shells into refugee camps," Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at HRW told France TV channel 24.

Ann Sophie Bonefeld from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jerusalem was more cautious. "We haven't been able to confirm if Israel is using phosphorous bombs in Gaza," she told IPS.

Chiara Stefanini, spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Jerusalem told IPS, "We have no evidence of phosphorous being used at this point in time. It is still too early to comment."

Terrifying pictures released by Israeli military planes of white clouds blanketing the skies of Gaza have filled the screens of Al-Jazeera television every night.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev was unable to tell Al-Jazeera whether the Israeli army were using this controversial weapon, and referred the network to Israeli army spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovitch during an interview Sunday.

"We don't discuss what weapons we use," Leibovitch told Al-Jazeera. "But I can assure you we do not use any weapons that are prohibited by international law. There are other nations that use phosphorous bombs, and we have the right not to comment on this," she added.

Britain and the United States used phosphorous bombs in Iraq, particularly during the Fallujah campaign.

The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination.

This is not the first time Israel has been accused of using phosphorous bombs in crowded civilian areas in Gaza. Several years ago, doctors in Gaza reported seeing strange wounds on those injured during attacks by Israeli drones, which constantly monitor Gaza from the air.

The wounds consisted of many small holes, often invisible to X-rays, and burns caused by heat so intense that many required amputation because of the extensive burning.

Habas al-Wahid, head of emergency at the Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza City told journalists then that in several cases the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies "as if a saw was used to cut through the bone." But there was no evidence of ordinary metal shrapnel in or near the wounds.

At al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, spokesman Juma Saka said that on examination of the wounds, the doctors had found a powder on the victims' bodies and in their internal organs. The microscopic particles turned out to be carbon and tungsten.

"The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and this is likely what caused the injuries," Saka said.

Following the claims of the Gaza doctors, an investigating team of Italian journalists from the television channel Rai News 24 took samples of the soil back to Italy.

Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at the University of Parma, examined the samples and found a high concentration of carbon, as well as copper, aluminum and tungsten, whose presence she considered unusual.

She said in her report that "these findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question was a dense inert metal explosive or DIME."

According to military experts, DIME is a carbon-encased missile that shatters on impact into minuscule splinters. On impact it sets off an explosive that shoots blades of energy-charged, heavy metal tungsten alloy (HMTA) powder, such as cobalt and nickel or iron, with a carbon fiber casing.

This turns to dust on impact, as it loses inertia very quickly due to air resistance, burning and destroying everything within a four-meter range, as opposed to shrapnel which results from the fragmentation of a metal casing.

The metal is designated "inert" because it is not involved in the blast, and not because it is chemically or biologically inert.

Israel was also accused of using phosphorous against civilian targets in Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. It initially denied the charge, but finally confirmed it following investigation by the same team of Italian journalists, and in the face of overwhelming evidence.

"While the international community might be horrified by the use of phosphorous, this is overlooking the issue that hundreds of half-ton bombs are being dropped on Gaza on civilian targets on a daily basis," Sourani told IPS.

Gaza's death toll has risen to over 900, while nearly 4,000 Palestinians have been wounded. The UN reports that half of the deaths are civilian, and half of the civilian casualties are women and children.

One million Gazans are currently living without electricity, and some 750,000 without water, according to UN estimates. Gaza has a population of about 1.5 million.


At January 12, 2009 at 12:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm....we deserved what happened to us on September 11, since our government had "meddled" in foreign affairs for too long....right??

Well, in keeping with this "progressive" argument, the Palestinians obviously deserve everything they get, since they voted Hamas into power, and their "leaders" are lobbing missiles towards innocent civilians....right?? Right???

At January 12, 2009 at 12:47 PM , Anonymous james said...

Does anonymouse have a name?

At January 12, 2009 at 12:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hardly see how my name is relevant. I simply like to point out the flagrant double standards that plague many of us. Some are so quick to defend the Palestinian cause; however, they treat their women like dirt and over zealously worship their God to the point of sheer ignorance......

Sounds like the Red State yokels the left hates so much!

At January 12, 2009 at 1:11 PM , Anonymous omar said...

Your 'argument' makes no sense. Where are you citing the September 11th issue from? If you think kids should indeed die from White Phosphorus then you oughtta just shut the fuck up. What does anythig your saying have anything to do with anything. Please attach a name, address the article, or fuck off.

At January 12, 2009 at 1:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, when we hear some actual "evidence" of white phosphorus, rather than the flimsy "eyewitness" account of an Amnesty International employee, maybe I will find a way to respect what you are doing here. I just find the blind support of Palestine to be laughable....just route for the undergdog and disregard the rest....

Maybe I will create a username/password, so Omar can have my name and address (please...) however, I was just hoping to stir some shit up and then move along! If you fail to see the correlation I was making, then you should definitely be relegated to this amateur hour blog. A friend sent along a link to the "Worse of Houston"....pretty funny.....

At January 12, 2009 at 2:28 PM , Anonymous omar said...

More than just Amnesty have reported on this. The Israeli spokesperson even justified at saying, "well, the US and British did it Iraq, why can't we?" The use of this shit is against international law. This is not blind support for the Israelis? Spent anytime in the region? Also-If this is amateur hour, then why read it mayne? That inherently makes you an amateur. Not to mention a coward for refusing to use a name? Anyways, thanks for reading and sorry for my initial 'fuck off' but you are dragging this essence of the article in a direction that has nothing to do with white phophorus or civilian causalties. Your comments make it sound like you have tacit approval for such actions. Bottom line: nearly 1000 Palestinians have been killed and 3 Israelis. This is disproportionate. Lots of kids dead. Lots of women and old folk. You can't honestly say that is a good thing. Can you?

At January 12, 2009 at 2:55 PM , Anonymous omar said...

Oh yeah= you would be hard pressed o say the Israelis don't over-zealously worsip their God and treat women like dirt as well..but they still don't deserve so many dead. Why kinda half price moral symmetry are you advocating?

At January 13, 2009 at 4:16 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

the problem with Anonymous isn't that he hasn't provided a name it is that his original comment actually is hallow. Wake up guys, he is using what is called a strawman argument.

When he argues

"we deserved what happened to us on September 11, since our government had 'meddled' in foreign affairs"

it's actually a reductionist and false position that he uses to then knock down the opposing side. That's the point; you are not arguing someone's position but arguing with a flimsy characature.

The strawman argument used here - one that the right enjoys using often - is the one derives from a legitimate point that the left made which is to try to see the motivating factors behind the actions of 9/11. This is no more saying that 3,000 civilians deserved to be murdered than saying a D.A. believes the victim deserved it when he presents a motive in a courtroom in a murder case.

In other words, Anonymous is engaging in Rhetoric 101 and baiting you guys when all you need to do is break apart what he's saying which is a lot of hot air.

That said, look, let's break this down really simply. Are rocket attacks at Israeli civilians cool? No. Is attacking Palestinian civilians cool? No.

OK so we have assholes on both sides (welcome to the middle east). So, now that we've established that, here is the question - How does this benefit Israel in the long run? My guess is probably it won't; it will only make things worse and will only stoke the fires it intends to snuff out. It's foolish and childish thrashing by a child that doesn't know what to do. Unfortunately, this thrashing will only result in the death of more people on both sides.

It's all very sad.

At January 13, 2009 at 5:53 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Err, sorry, my first sentence should read "the problem with Anonymous isn't that he hasn't provided a name it is that his original comment actually is **hOllow**."

At January 13, 2009 at 11:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to set the record straight, I DO NOT condone the killing of innocent civilians....that would be pure lunacy. I may have picked an inappropriate article to comment upon, since I realize the author was simply trying to show the possibility of illegal weapons being used.....although I'm sure the Geneva Convention would probably look down upon firing rockets into civilian areas, as is the case with Palestine, and the bedrock of this "war of the month".

Although your insight into my technique is clever and perceptive, Anonymous #2, it fails to recognize that the "straw man" argument was used in order to point out the absurdity of the premise (paragraph #1), rather than justify the killing of Palestinians (paragraph #2).

I find it frustrating to watch the hipsters that are so quick to vilify Israel, while at the same time, reach for any sort of moral equivalence to justify the Palestinian cause. There are nasty tactics on each side....that we can probably agree upon.

And don't be so quick to throw your own country under the bus, while finding ways to justify comparable actions by other countries. It reeks of insecurity and resentment......

At January 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM , Anonymous omar said...

Whatever your technique is, it shows polemic thinking. Nobody is defending firing rockets from the Palestinian side, so why would you defend Israel's actions. Let's face it, 1000 Palestinian dead VS. 3 dead on the Israeli side show a massive disproportionality. This is not symmetric warfare.

At January 13, 2009 at 12:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous #1,

Clearly both you and Omar miss my point entirely.

To say that your argument is a strawman argument isn't merely academic; it is pointing out flawed logic. You are engaging in a classic Logical Fallacy. It's a wonderful rhetorical technique, yes, but, like I said, it is hollow.

Do you understand why a strawman argument fails? It fails becasue the premise (like the one you so proudly point to in paragraph one) hinges on is inherently false and reductionist assertion which means you haven't proved anything to be absurd at all.

At January 13, 2009 at 12:20 PM , Anonymous omar said...

I agree with you. How did I miss your point? My last comment was directed at him, not you...

At January 13, 2009 at 12:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Whatever your technique" seemed to be dismissive of my point. Sorry if I misunderstood how that was directed.

At February 18, 2010 at 8:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Israel warned, by telephone and flyer,the Gazans of the military action telling them to stay indoors.

2. Hamas asked the civillians to stand on the roof tops and streets near military targets to increase difficulty for the IDF missle targeting.

3. White phosphourus is commonly used in flares. Only eight people have been diagnosed with white phosphourus burns.

4. Teaching palestinians to hate Jews is not the same as teaching love for freedom, human rights, democracy, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.


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