Friday, January 9, 2009

Atrocities in Gaza

NYT delicately reports on Gaza Atrocities

International aid groups lashed out at Israel on Thursday over the war in Gaza, saying that access to civilians in need is poor, relief workers are being hurt and killed, and Israel is woefully neglecting its obligations to Palestinians who are trapped, some among rotting corpses in a nightmarish landscape of deprivation.

Antoine Grand, head of Red Cross operations in Gaza, said his group’s workers came under Israeli fire on Thursday. He said a convoy of two trucks, one clearly marked as Red Cross and the other from the Ministry of Health, was taking medical equipment to the southern city of Khan Yunis, followed by 13 ambulances heading to the Egyptian border.

He said the convoy’s movement was “fully coordinated with Israel. I did it myself.” And it was during the three-hour lull, at 3:30 p.m., he said, when they stopped in front of the checkpoint that the Red Cross vehicle was shot at from a tank.

The United Nations declared a suspension of its aid operations after one of its drivers was killed and two others were wounded despite driving United Nations-flagged vehicles and coordinating their movements with the Israeli military. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called for an investigation by Israel for a second time in a week after the more than 40 deaths near a United Nations school from Israeli tank fire on Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported finding what it called shocking scenes on Wednesday, including four emaciated children next to the bodies of their dead mothers. In a rare and sharply critical statement, it said it believed that “the Israeli military failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded.”

At the United Nations, members of the Security Council voted Thursday night to approve a resolution calling for “an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire” that would lead to the “full withdrawal” of Israeli forces from Gaza, the passage of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and an end to the trafficking of arms and ammunition into the territory.

Fourteen nations approved the measure, with the United States abstaining.

“Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp,” Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said in an interview published Wednesday in Il Sussidiaro.

John Holmes .... said the Gaza authorities counted 758 fatalities, among them 257 children and 56 women. The injured totaled 3,100; of them 1,080 were children and about were 465 women.

Times Online reports of Israeli use of Phosphorus Weapons

Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.

“These explosions are fantastic looking, and produce a great deal of smoke that blinds the enemy so that our forces can move in,” said one Israeli security expert. Burning blobs of phosphorus would cause severe injuries to anyone caught beneath them and force would-be snipers or operators of remote-controlled booby traps to take cover. Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.

The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s mostly densely population areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel’s offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.

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. However, Charles Heyman, a military expert and former major in the British Army, said: “If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in The Hague. White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.”

White phosphorus: the smoke-screen chemical that can burn to the bone

— White phosphorus bursts into a deep-yellow flame when it is exposed to oxygen, producing a thick white smoke

— It is used as a smokescreen or for incendiary devices, but can also be deployed as an anti-personnel flame compound capable of causing potentially fatal burns

— Phosphorus burns are almost always second or third-degree because the particles do not stop burning on contact with skin until they have entirely disappeared — it is not unknown for them to reach the bone

— Geneva conventions ban the use of phosphorus as an offensive weapon against civilians, but its use as a smokescreen is not prohibited by international law

— Israel previously used white phosphorus during its war with Lebanon in 2006

— It has been used frequently by British and US forces in recent wars, notably during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its use was criticised widely

— White phosphorus has the slang name “Willy Pete”, which dates from the First World War. It was commonly used in the Vietnam era.

Many non-western sources are also accusing Israel of using Cluster Bombs. The use of these weapons remains a rumor but it should be remembered that Israel used cluster bombs in Lebanon just a few years ago and that Israel (and the United States) have refused to sign treaties banning their use.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article.