Israel Likely Using Shells That Burn Skin

Controversial tool to disguise troops causes horrific damage
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2009 5:19 AM CST
Smoke is seen in the background as Israeli infantry soldiers take up positions on the border before entering the Gaza Strip, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.   (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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(Newser) – As Israeli soldiers approached the limits of Gaza City, reports have suggested they are using controversial white phosphorus shells to cover their advance. Although the shells are not illegal if used as a smokescreen, they can cause severe burns among bystanders, says the Times of London. An international treaty says they should not be used during a war in civilian areas—and Gaza is among the world's most densely populated.

Last night the Israeli military denied it was using phosphorus, but it also refused to disclose what was producing the telltale white smoke seen in Gaza. Israel also used phosphorous in 2006 during the war in Lebanon. It produces second- or third-degree burns as particles continue to smolder after contact with the skin; often, the phosphorus burns down to the bone.