Israel Committed Gaza War Crimes: Rights Group

Human Rights Watch finds army fired white phosphorus at civilians
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2009 6:28 AM CDT
Fatma Zidane El-Banneh, 8, left, and her mother Azza, are seen at the school where Azza claims Fatma was burned by white phosphorus, which could not be independently verified, in Beit Lahiya, Gaza.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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(Newser) – Israel's military committed war crimes by repeatedly firing white phosphorus into crowded areas of Gaza, Human Rights Watch said today. A report by the group alleges that Israel chose not to use less dangerous smoke shells and even fired the incendiary agent at the main UN compound in the Strip. White phosphorus is not illegal when used as a smokescreen, but it causes deep burns reaching as far as the bone when it touches human skin.

As the Guardian reports, Israel is undertaking its own investigation into the use of white phosphorus during the 3-week war. Last night the army insisted its use of the shells was legal. But the Human Rights Watch report notes that Israel used the shells even in areas where no troops were on the ground, implying that "the IDF was not using the munition for its obscurant qualities but rather for its incendiary effect."