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Terrorism & Security

Israelis disciplined for white phosphorus attack on Gaza

While dismissing many of the allegations made in Richard Goldstone's UN report on the war, Israel has reportedly disciplined two high-ranking officers for ordering the use of controversial white phosphorus during its invasion of Gaza in early 2009.

By Correspondent / February 1, 2010

A Palestinian boy sat on rubble in an area that was destroyed during Israel's January 2009 Gaza offensive, in this photo taken Jan. 16.

Hatem Moussa/AP

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The Israeli military has reportedly disciplined two high-ranking officers for ordering the use of white phosphorus during its invasion of Gaza last year. The shells were fired at a UN compound and caused injuries to several within it, though Israel initially denied any use of the incendiary weapon.

The details emerged in a report Israel released over the weekend that detailed its own investigation into the conflict and dismissed many of the allegations made in a United Nations report on the war spearheaded by South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The Goldstone report, as it is known, found evidence of war crimes committed by both Israel and the Islamist movement in charge of the Gaza Strip, Hamas.

Among the war crimes Israel has been accused of committing in last year’s Gaza offensive, the use of white phosphorus munitions has been among the most controversial. The munitions are filled with felt soaked in the chemical that sticks to buildings and human flesh, and burns for an extended period of time. Inhalation of the fumes can also be hazardous. The Goldstone report noted that the military use of white phosphorus is not prohibited under international law, but criticized the way in which Israel had used it and the chemical's impact on Gaza residents.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland reports that many human rights groups have accused the Israeli army of illegally using the munitions throughout Gaza.

"When you bear in mind that a number of human rights groups identified what they described as a systematic, random and wide-ranging use of the chemical, the Israeli report just focuses on this one incident and two individuals being disciplined[,” said Mr. Rowland.] “But we have seen pictures from Gaza that hundreds of people were burned by white phosphorus during that military campaign a year ago.”

During last year's war, the Monitor reported on its effect on Gaza civilians. "We found small pieces of foreign material in [the woman's] body, and even when we picked it out, the wound was still smoking," the head of the burn unit of Gaza City's main public hospital told the Monitor during last year's war. "We were later told [by foreign doctors and human rights workers who arrived after the war started] that it was white phosphorus.

Initially, Israeli officials denied using white phosphorus in densely populated areas during the conflict, but this summer Israel admitted to using the controversial munitions, reports The Times of London. In Israel’s most recent report to the UN, it reportedly goes further, acknowledging widespread use of white phosphorus that resulted in injuring or killing many Palestinian civilians.

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