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Friday, March 27, 2009

HRW: Israel use of phosphorus proof of war crimes

Wed, 25 Mar 2009 23:44:34 GMT | PressTV

Israel's use of white phosphorus over densely populated areas in Gaza "was indiscriminate and evidence of war crimes," a rights group says.

In a 71-page report, titled "Rain of Fire" published on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental, but revealed "a pattern or policy of conduct".

"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, a HRW senior emergencies researcher.

"It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died."

"First, the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus in populated areas until the last days of the operation reveals a pattern or policy of conduct rather than incidental or accidental usage. Second, the IDF [Israeli Army] was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the dangers it poses to civilians. Third, the IDF failed to use safer available alternatives for smokescreens," the report added.

According to the rights group, although "white phosphorus munitions weren't illegal when deployed properly in open areas", the IDF repeatedly used them "unlawfully over populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital."

Human Rights Watch called on the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to set up an international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of international law in the Gaza war by the Israeli military.

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