White Phosphorus: World Media Questions Use by Israel in Gaza Conflict

Comment and analysis from Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, India, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Philippines., February 9, 2009

Palestinian security men inspect the damage at a police post targeted by an Israeli air raid near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza strip. (Photo: Said Khatib / AFP-Getty Images)

ISRAEL — The Jerusalem Post, (Feb. 1): As for the white phosphorous, the IDF says it is used by armies all over the world in legal munitions for flares and smokescreens, but that it is investigating the firing by a reserve brigade of about 20 phosphorous shells in the Bet Lehiya area of northern Gaza where civilians may unintentionally have been hit. … As the dust settles, the question of whether Israel actually broke the rules of war and whether any of its soldiers will face judicial proceedings is one of the major issues that have come to the fore.

JORDAN — The Jordan Times, (Jan. 29): White phosphorus is a chemical weapon used to carry out "total annihilation," the Jordan Environment Society's (JES) said recently, describing the substance as a lethal pesticide that destroys environmental ecosystems. ... Web sources indicate that breathing white phosphorus for long periods causes a condition known as "phossy jaw" which involves poor wound healing of the mouth and breakdown of the jaw bone, while eating or drinking small amounts of white phosphorus may cause liver, heart or kidney damage, vomiting, stomach cramps, drowsiness and death.

SAUDI ARABIA — Arab News, (Feb. 7): A Turkish state prosecutor has launched an investigation into allegations that Israel's offensive in Gaza amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity, a human rights group said yesterday. … The complaint named 19 people including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres, as well as Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. … "We submitted the complaint against those who we could prove were in some way responsible for giving orders for the attack on Gaza," Meryem Sari, an attorney, said. "The complaint asks that Turkey be given the right to try the people mentioned."

CHINA — China View, (Jan. 13): Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith told reporters that he was aware of a number of allegations of atrocities by the Israeli military during its incursion into the Gaza Strip in the past two weeks. … There were also allegations the Israeli military had used phosphorous bombs which cause chemical burns to victims. … Smith also announced an extra 5 million Aust. dollars ($3.3 million) in humanitarian assistance from Australia to address food shortages, medical supply shortages and the displacement of families in Gaza.

RUSSIA — Pravda, (Jan. 11): Israel has been systematically carrying out genocide, indeed a holocaust, against the Palestinian people…very literally. Most recently, Israel used a weapon of mass destruction known as phosphorous bombs which literally set people on fire. This type of murderous behavior has been going on since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Additionally, there are "Jews only" roads. … The International Federation of Journalists has condemned Israel's targeting of journalists. In Gaza City, journalists held a sit-in after Israeli forces bombed the Jawhara Media Building killing a journalist, Ala' Murtaja.

INDIA — The Times of India, (Jan. 26): Rights group Amnesty International has said that Israel's use of white phosphorus munitions which can cause extreme burns in built-up areas of the Gaza Strip was indiscriminate and therefore constituted a war crime. Israel has said it used all weapons in Gaza within the limits of international law. Its military, however, has opened an investigation into white phosphorous use during the conflict. … The International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction to investigate in the Gaza Strip, as it is not a state.

UNITED KINGDOM — The Daily Mirror, (Jan. 20): Rebuilding the Gaza Strip after Israel's fierce three-week offensive against Hamas will cost an estimated £1.3billion.The massive scale of the destruction began to emerge as Palestinians ventured out from their shelters to assess the damage following the ceasefire. … Saudi Arabia will donate £650million to the reconstruction but yesterday King Abdullah warned Israel it must continue its withdrawal from the Strip… Meanwhile, Amnesty International arms expert Chris Cobb-Smith has accused Israel of war crimes for using incendiary phosphorous bombs against civilians.

JAPAN — The Japan Times, (Jan. 21): Israel's offensive has caused an estimated $1.9 billion worth of damage to 22,000 buildings and has worsened humanitarian conditions for Gaza residents, who had suffered from the blockade. Allegations that Israel used white phosphorus shells should be investigated. By inflicting serious damage to routes used to smuggle weapons into Gaza, Israel declared that it had achieved its military goal. But as expected, Hamas declared victory, saying its military struggle had forced Israel to stop its offensive. … New U.S. President Barack Obama can help bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, first, by listening closely to each side's assertions.

PHILIPPINES — The Manila Times, (Jan. 12): Some doctors said burn wounds were caused by banned white phosphorous shells, with Israel denying the charge. … Dr. Yusef Abu Rish at Gaza City's Nasser hospital told Agence France-Presse that at least 55 people were injured early Sunday by white phosphorous shells, banned under international law for use against civilians, but permitted for creating smokescreens. "These people were burned over their bodies in a way that can only be caused by white phosphorous," said Abu Rish.

Viewpoints articles include items drawn from international media opinion.

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