Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:58 pm (KSA) 14:58 pm (GMT)

Israel using 'illegal' phosphorus in Gaza: report

A photo taken on the Israel-Gaza border show the pale blue shells marked with M825A1 (Courtesy of the Times)
A photo taken on the Israel-Gaza border show the pale blue shells marked with M825A1 (Courtesy of the Times)

Israel is illegally using white phosphorus shells in its assault on the Gaza Strip, the U.K.'s Times newspaper reported on Thursday, citing photographic evidence despite Israeli denials.

The daily said it had identified stockpiles of white phosphorus (WP) shells from photographs taken of Israel artillery units on the border with Gaza this week.

The report said Palestinian citizens had suffered burns caused by the weapons.

"The use of WP against civilians is prohibited under international law," the newspaper noted. It said it had identified pale blue shells marked with the designation M825A1 as a U.S.-made WP munitions.

Phosphorus ignites on contact with oxygen and, according to the Times, is being used by the Israeli military to create smokescreens to allow its ground forces to operate.

"Unusual burns"

 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 
Gaza medic

Medics in Gaza told the newspaper they had been struggling to treat patients with unusual burns, which they suspected had been caused by white phosphorus.

"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 Times quoted medic Muhammad Azayzeh, 28, as saying in Gaza City.

The paper reported that victims with WP particles embedded in their flesh have to have the affected areas flushed with water. Particles that cannot be removed with tweezers are covered with a saline-soaked dressing.

“I am not familiar with phosphorus but many of the patients wounded in the past weeks have strange burns. They are very deep and not like burns we used to see,” the paper quoted the head of the burns unit at al-Shifa hospital, Nafez Abu Shaban, as saying.

Israel's denial

 This is what we call a quiet shell -- it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it 
Israeli military spokeswoman

The Times cited an Israeli military spokeswoman as insisting the M825A1 identified by the paper was not a WP shell: "This is what we call a quiet shell -- it is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it."

"We shoot it to mark the target before we launch a real shell. We launch two or three of the quiet shells which are empty so that the real shells will be accurate. It's not for killing people."

But Neil Gibson of Jane's Missiles and Rockets told the Times that the M825A1 was a WP round.

"The WP does not fill the shell but is impregnated into 116 felt wedges which, once dispersed (by a high-explosive charge), start to burn within four to five seconds.

"They then burn for five to ten minutes. The smokescreen produced is extremely effective," he said.

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