Israeli army probing alleged illegal use of white phosphorus

January 22nd, 2009 - 12:54 am ICT by IANS  

Tel Aviv, Jan 21 (DPA) The Israeli military Wednesday announced that it will investigate allegations that its soldiers made illegal use of white phosphorus in built-up areas.An Amnesty International fact-finding team says it has so far found dozens of white-phosphorus artillery shells in areas where Israeli ground troops battled with local militants, including in Gaza City’s southern and eastern neighbourhoods and in Jabaliya and Beit Lahia, north of the city.

It says that the shells which struck Gaza City’s al-Quds Hospital, the city’s main UN compound and a UN school in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia were indeed white phosphorus ones.

“In response to the claims of NGOs and claims in the foreign press relating to the use of phosphorus weapons and in order to remove any ambiguity, an investigative team has been established in the Southern Command to look into this issue,” the military said in a statement.

“It must be noted that international law does not prohibit the use of weaponry containing phosphorus to create smokescreens and for marking purposes. The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) only uses weapons permitted by law.”

White phosphorus is used to create smokescreens by many modern armies. It was also used by the US in Iraq.

But it causes severe burns when coming into contact with skin, and human rights groups say its use in populated areas is illegal because it spreads out over large areas of up to 200 by 200 metres and as such causes disproportionate and indiscriminate harm to civilians.

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