The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings & Torture
October 23rd, 2006 - Israel Admits it Used Phosphorus Weapons
By Conal Urquhart
October 23, 2006
The Israeli government has admitted that it used controversial phosphorus weapons in its attacks against targets during its month long war in Lebanon this summer.
The chemical can be used in shells, missiles and grenades and causes horrific burning when it comes into contact with human flesh.
White phosphorus (WP) weapons are not forbidden by international law but some human rights groups believe they should be re-classified as chemical weapons and banned.
The Israeli admission was made by the cabinet minister, Jacob Edery, who was questioned on the subject by Zahava Gal-On, a member of the Knesset.
Mr Edery told Ms Gal-On: "The IDF [Israel Defence Force] holds phosphorus munitions in different forms. The IDF made use of phosphorus shells during the war against Hizbullah in attacks against military targets in open ground."
Ms Gal-On said that her original question to the government related to suspicions that Israel has been using experimental weapons in Gaza so she was surprised when she was offered a confirmation that Israel had used phosphorus weapons in Lebanon. "My original question was about the use of Dime [dense inert metal explosives] weapons by Israel in Gaza but instead I was given the answer to a different question," she said. "The use of phosphorus weapons in Lebanon is shocking and unacceptable."
Mr Edery said that the Israeli army uses phosphorus weapons according to the rules of international law. However, there have been numerous reports that Israeli phosphorus munitions injured and killed civilians in Lebanon.
The war began on July 12 when Hizbullah abducted two Israeli soldiers from the Israel-Lebanon border. Israeli forces entered Lebanon in pursuit and launched air strikes on Lebanon. Hizbullah then began firing rockets into northern Israel.
Throughout the war, Israel was accused of using controversial weapons, including WP and cluster munitions against civilian targets. Both sides were accused of war crimes in their attacks on civilians by the human rights group, Human Rights Watch.
Unexploded cluster bombs in Lebanon have regularly killed and maimed civilians since the end of the war. Rami Ali Hussein Shibly, 12, was killed and his nine-year-old brother brother, Khodr, injured yesterday by a cluster bomb as they picked olives in Halta. He was 21st person to be killed by the bomblets since the fighting ended.
WP is used by armies for producing smoke screens and as an incendiary. The phosphorus ignites on contact with air and gives off a thick smoke. If the chemical touches skin it will continue to burn until it reaches the bone unless deprived of oxygen.
Many soldiers believe that white phosphorous grenades are more effective in clearing buildings than those that use high explosive because they are more likely to disable the targets.
Amir Peretz, the Israeli defence minister said yesterday that Israel would continue to carry out reconnaissance flights over Lebanon because Hizbullah continues to smuggle arms from Syria. The United Nations has criticised Israel for its continued violations of Lebanese air space.
External link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/oct/23/israel