Middle East: Israel may be using 'banned' weapons in Gaza

Rome, 9 Jan. (AKI) - Mounting evidence is emerging that Israel is using non-conventional weapons against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in its latest offensive, according to an Italian research group.

The New Weapons Committee, an independent Italian group of academics, researchers and professionals, released a report on Friday raising questions about Israeli weapons use following a report in a British newspaper.

"It is happening again what we saw in Lebanon two years ago, when Israel used white phosphorus, dense inert metal explosives, and thermobaric bombs, against Hezbollah" said Paola Manduca, a genetics teacher and researcher at the University of Genoa and member of the committee in a media release.

"(These) three types of offensive instruments, are known for the kind of wounds they cause," she said.

Evidence of the use of these white phosphorous shells and other weapons, including cluster bombs and depleted uranium cannot be directly verified due to the lack of access to the Gaza Strip, said the report.

However, the committee said there was "significant" evidence to cause concern.

"The images and the testimonies that have resulted from the conflict, show significant resemblance with those gathered and verified in the July and August conflict in 2006 in Lebanon," said Manduca.

The use of phosphorous or any other 'incendiary weapon' , used as a weapon, is banned by the United Nations' Geneva Convention on Conventional Weapons.

It also bans the use of white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon against civilians and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.

However, neither Israel, nor the US are signatories to the UN protocol.

Earlier this week the British daily,The Times, published photos of Israeli artillery units on the Israeli-Gaza border taken on 4 January marked with a M825A1 designation, which, according to experts, indicates ammunition containing white phosphorous.

However Israel responded to the claims published in The Times saying that the M825A1 round was not a white phosphorous shell but an empty shell that contained no explosives and was to mark a target before a strike.

The British defence think-tank, Jane's Missiles and Rockets, told the London daily that the M825A1 rounds contained white phosphorous.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and some human rights groups said phosphorous weapons burns should be treated as chemical weapons.

One of the doctors currently treating injured Palestinians in Gaza described the situation of the victims on the ground.

"Many arrive with extreme amputations, with both legs crushed, (wounds) that I suspect are wounds inflicted by Dime (Dense inert metal explosive)," said Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert.

Following the 2006 Lebanon war, Israel admitted using white phosphorous shells.

The United States also admitted using white phosphorous in 2005 against alleged insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq. The case was brought to light a year later in 2006 after an Italian documentary aired on state television RaiNews24.

The NWC is composed of academics, researchers and media professionals and provides risk assessment surveys on the impact of the latest weaponry.

The group was established in the third quarter of 2006 after the Lebanon war.


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