The incident being investigated is believed to be the firing of white phosphorous shells at a UN school in Beit Lahiya on January 17. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Common Dreams (Sunday Times Online):
After weeks of denying that it used white phosphorus in the heavily populated Gaza Strip, Israel finally admitted yesterday that the weapon was deployed in its offensive.
“Yes, phosphorus was used but not in any illegal manner,” Yigal Palmor, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told The Times.
This is of course a surprise to no one. So, what would make it illegal?
The weapon is legal if used as a smokescreen in battle but it is banned from deployment in civilian areas. Pictures of the attack show Palestinian medics fleeing as blobs of burning phosphorus rain down on the compound.
The above photo is of a UN school in Beit Lahiya on January 17, 2009. People are running. It’s a school. Looks like a civilian area to me.. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. What area in Gaza would NOT be considered a civilian area? These weapons are not the sort to target out an individual or small group, they spread out and kill indiscriminately.
Will Israel be charged with war crimes for its use of these terrible weapons in densely populated areas? I doubt it:
The Ministry of Defence gave lawyers the task before the attack of investigating the legal consequences of deploying white phosphorus – commonly stocked in Nato arsenals and used by US and British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan – inside the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, and one of the most densely populated places in the world.
“From what I know, at least one month before it was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications,” an Israeli defence official said. He added that Israel was surprised about the public outcry. “Everyone knew we were using it, and everyone else uses it. We didn’t think it would get this much attention,” he said.
Because Israel is not a signatory to the treaty that created the International Court of Justice in The Hague, it cannot be tried there. Any country that is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, however, can try to prosecute individuals who took part in the Gaza operation as culpable of war crimes.
The BBC reports further: Israel defends use of phosphorus
Today, Chris Hedges (TruthDig) wrote: With Gaza, Journalists Fail Again
The US won’t do anything about it. We are the ones who likely gave them the weapons in the first place. Not only White Phosphorous was used. Israel also dropped “cluster bombs” and depleted uranium. That is the gift that keeps on giving… The use of cluster bombs is utterly, and absolutely immoral. The cluster bombs, unlike other bombs, cause damages for a long period of time and most of the casualties are civilians long after the war is over. The large number of “bomblets” that do not explode when dropped act much like land mines. They are meant to maim, not necessarily kill. It is logical to assume that many of the victims-to-be will be children, who in their curiosity pick up, or step on, the bomblets will lose limbs or die. Israel already dropped these cluster bombs throughout Gaza. Their ‘campaign’ is now over and the press is pretty much done reporting. The deaths and injuries from these unexploded munitions, though, will continue for years. Those deaths and injuries will fall under the radar, and out of public view. If depleted uranium was used, well.., it has a half life of 4.46 BILLION years. Yes, BILLION with a “B”. The area is now contaminated, but then so are so many other areas in other countries where depleted uranium munitions have been used.
As of 12 January 2009, 95 states have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), an international treaty that prohibits the use of cluster bombs. Several major producers of cluster munitions, including the US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Brazil have not signed the Convention. Israel did not sign either. For a list of countries that have used, stocked, or produced cluster bombs, go here.
From The Guardian:
Intended primarily as anti-personnel weapons, cluster bombs open up in mid-air to release dozens of individual devices, known as bomblets, which scatter across a wide area.
While the bomblets are intended to explode when they hit the ground, many do not and they can lie dormant for years. Victims often include farmers tilling land and children attracted by the bomblets’ bright colouring.
The US and other nations insist cluster bombs have a legitimate military use. But one group that deals with the issue, Handicap International, says 98% of cluster-bomb victims are civilians and 27% are children.
The below video shows unexploded ‘bomblets’ that Israel dropped in Lebanon in 2006. The point is to show how many of these armed munitions end up laying around, for years, waiting for it’s next victim.