After the war, Gazans seek answers on white phosphorus
Gaza doctors add to the growing number of accounts that suggest Israel used white phosphorus munitions against international norms of war.
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Abu Shabam, head of the burn unit, complains that enough isn't being done by the international aid and rights groups to verify whether white phosphorus munitions were used in civilian areas. "The time is now," he says. "We need them to be investigating and testing the area of explosions before evidence is lost."Skip to next paragraph
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John Ging, the head of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main aid agency to the Palestinians, says it's clear that the shells that hit the UN compound here on Jan. 15 contained white phosphorous. When he was interviewed nine days later, in front of the warehouses in which food for distribution to Palestinians was destroyed, some of it was still smoking. Mr. Ging says this is symptomatic of white phosphorus.
"We have the evidence," he says. "We have the shell casings and we have the materials to stand by our allegations that it is white phosphorus."
New York-based HRW is expected to issue a report on the issue in the coming weeks. "When we got into Gaza, we found about 72 white phosphorus shells marked M825E1, which is the US designation for a white phosphorus shell which has been upgraded," says Mr. Garlasco.
He says he found spent and unexploded white phosphorus canisters. Of the 72, 24 were found in or adjacent to homes. Inside the Abu Halima home in particular, he says, he found the shell and a white phosphorus canister, and another two canisters outside the house. He says the burned-out walls also left behind the residue of white phosphorus.
"On top of all that, we found hundreds of pieces of felt wedges that are impregnated with phosphorus, and when they were disturbed, they would reignite," he says. "You kick it and it's on fire again."
Amnesty International says a fact-finding team here has also found evidence that white phosphorus was used in populated areas. "We now know that white phosphorus munitions were used in built-up civilian areas, although the Israeli authorities previously denied this," said Donatella Rovera, head of Amnesty International's investigation team in Gaza, in a statement on the organization's website.
Christine Gosden, a British medical expert who researched the effects of chemical and biological weapons in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, says that the international community, preferably a UN Security Council member, needs to demand an investigation.
"We have an appalling death toll, and we have to see that every option be used to find out what killed them. There might be better ways of treating the people who are injured and to do that, we need to know what was used," says Professor Gosden, of Britain's Royal Liverpool University Hospital. "You need a responsible laboratory with no ax to grind to be testing this."