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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Regev: Hamas used phosphorus not Israel

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 19:32:37 GMT

An Israeli spokesman suggests Gaza phosphorus casualties may have been caused by Hamas after the Foreign Ministry admitted to using the weapon.

After weeks of mounting evidence and international outcry by human rights groups about the use of phosphorus shells by the Israeli army in the heavily populated Gaza Strip, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev made an effort to shift the blame onto Hamas resistance movement.

"When you walk into a totalitarian government where people have injuries, how do you know that some of these injuries weren't caused - for example - by Hamas munitions?," Regev told Britain's Channel Four.

When confronted by the Channel Four presenter for accusing Hamas, Regev argued that the democratically-elected government of Hamas is an "authoritarian government" and therefore reports gathered from witnesses in Gaza can not be relied upon.

He went on to lash out at a report by the channel's correspondent in Gaza for suggesting that "Israel went and randomly killed civilians" adding that it "is not clearly the case."

This is while according to Health officials in the embattled strip 23 days of intense Israeli military operation in Gaza left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead and some 5,450 others wounded.

On the other hand, according to the Israeli army, thirteen Israelis including three civilians were killed.

Regev's remarks came as Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman finally admitted on Friday that the controversial chemical weapon was deployed in its offensive against the Palestinian territory.

"Yes, phosphorus was used but not in any illegal manner," Palmor told The Times. "Some practices could be illegal but we are going into that. The IDF is holding an investigation concerning one specific incident."

Palmor was referring to the Israeli shelling of a UN headquarters in Gaza where the compound was hit by three white phosphorus shells causing a fire which destroyed much of the aid supplies.

While international law permits the use of white phosphorus as an obscurant to conceal troop movement and prevent the enemy from using certain guided weapons, its use remains controversial in civilian areas, as it sticks to human skin and burns right through to the bone.

The burns cause death or leave survivors with painful wounds which are slow to heal. The chemical's ingestion or inhalation can also be fatal.

Human rights group Amnesty International along with many other countries has accused Israel of committing war crimes in the embattled Palestinian territory.

"Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza's densely populated residential neighborhoods is inherently indiscriminate," Donatella Rovera, a Middle East researcher with Amnesty International, said in a Jan 20 statement.

"Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime," she charged.

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