HRW: White phosphorus caused Gaza deaths

March 25, 2009 at 11:30 AM
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GAZA, March 25 (UPI) -- Israel's use of white phosphorus shells during its military campaign in Gaza was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes, Human Rights Watch says.

A report to be released Thursday indicates Israel's use of white phosphorus during the 22-day Gaza campaign last December and January had "devastating effects" on civilians and was used repeatedly in densely populated areas without regard for the lives of civilians, Human Rights Watch said in a release.

"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died."

Human Rights Watch said it found spent phosphorus shells, canister liners and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards and at a U.N. school in Gaza.

Although military forces use white phosphorus mainly to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke, it can also be used as an incendiary weapon, the group said.

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