24 October 2006
Israel has admitted using phosphorous bombs during the war against Lebanon last summer, just days after being accused by an Italian television documentary programme of using dense inert metal missiles, which are highly carcinogenic, against the Palestinians in Gaza in July and August.
After previously claiming that phosphorous bombs were only used to mark targets, Israeli cabinet minister, Jacob Edery, has now confirmed that “the Israeli army made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground.”
Phosphorus weapons cause chemical burns and the Red Cross and human rights groups argue they should be treated as chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against civilians or against military targets in civilian areas is outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. The US has insisted that Saddam Hussein be tried for using chemical weapons against civilians.
The Lebanese government had accused Israel of using banned weapons, including phosphorus incendiary bombs and vacuum bombs during the recent war. Doctors in hospitals in southern Lebanon had said they suspected some of the burns they were seeing were caused by phosphorous bombs.
Israel dropped more than a million cluster bombs on south Lebanon in the last few days before the ceasefire that have resulted in at least three deaths a day, mainly of women and children, and which have rendered the area almost uninhabitable.
Israel’s reversal of its previous claim that its weapons used in Lebanon did not contravene international conventions can only strengthen the claims by Palestinian doctors that Israel has used experimental heavy metal weapons against the people of Gaza.
The Italian state television’s satellite channel, RAI News 24, which last year documented the US military’s use of white phosphorus against civilians during attacks on Fallujah, followed up reports from Gaza of inexplicably serious injuries.
Doctors had appealed for help in identifying the cause of these strange injuries that were small, often invisible to X-rays, and cuts provoked by intense heat in the lower limbs. They observed an unusually large number of wounded that had had to have one or both of their legs amputated just below the genitals due to burns. Dr. Habas al-Wahid, head of the emergency centre at the Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, told the journalists that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies “as if a saw was used to cut through the bone.”
Dozens of victims had completely burned bodies and shrapnel type injuries that X-ray machines had been unable to detect. Doctors said they had removed microscopic particles of carbounium and tungsten, a highly carcinogenic substance, from wounds. Dr. Juma Saka, of Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said that doctors had found small entry wounds on the bodies of the dead and wounded, and a powder on the victims’ bodies and in their internal organs. “The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and this is likely what caused the injuries,” Saka said.