Israel Probes Phosphorus Use in Gaza

Admits deadly shells may have hit civilian areas, violating law
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2009 10:17 AM CST
Children play with a flaming lump, allegedly containing white phosphorus, on a street in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza strip, Monday.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Under pressure from the international community, Israel has admitted its troops might have inappropriately used white phosphorus in attacks on Gaza, and has launched an investigation. International law only permits the caustic chemical for creating smokescreens in troop areas, which wouldn’t explain hits on United Nations facilities in Gaza, the Guardian reports.

White phosphorus ignites on contact with air or water and sticks to human skin, causing severe and often deadly burns. Human-rights groups demanded an investigation over reports of dozens of cases of phosphorus burns after suspected chemical-filled shells hit civilian areas. The Israeli army suggested that faulty GPS might be to blame for the erroneous targeting.