Red Cross: No evidence Israel is using white phosphorus illegally

By , Middle East Editor

The International Committee of the Red Cross says white phosphorus is being used in Gaza. No question.

But they have no evidence that Israel is using it illegally.

“In some of the strikes in Gaza it’s pretty clear that phosphorus was used,” Peter Herby, head of the Red Cross mines-arms unit, told the Associated Press Tuesday. “But it’s not very unusual to use phosphorus to create smoke or illuminate a target. We have no evidence to suggest it's being used in any other way.”

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Monitor staff writer Robert Marquand reported yesterday that human rights groups have witnessed white phosphorus munitions exploding over populated area of Gaza. While using the agent is not banned by international laws when it's used as a smoke screen. But it is outlawed for use on people – civilians or soldiers. The shells contain filaments that ignite “upon contact with the atmosphere, drift to earth, and burn intensely for at least 10 to 12 minutes,” Marquand wrote. It’s extremely harmful when it comes into contact with human skin.

Israel has denied using white phosphorus altogether and says that it is adhering to international norms of warfare in the offensive against the Islamist militants.

The Red Cross urged Israel to use “extreme caution” when firing white phosphorus munitions, according to AP.
The United States came under fire from human rights groups for its usage of white phosphorus in its November 2004 assault on Fallujah, Iraq.

The BBC reported that American military officials admitted to using the agent to flush enemy combatants from their positions inside the city. “The combined effects of the fire and smoke - and in some case the terror brought about by the explosion on the ground - will drive them out of the holes so that you can kill them with high explosives.”

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