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Francesco Lattarulo

Gaza: Israel's weapons laboratory

Israel used white phosphorus during the 2008 war on Gaza. [getty]

Date of publication: 28 April, 2015

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Blog: The international community needs to act to stop Israel attacking Gazans with weapons such as white phosphorus, says Franceso Lattarulo.
During the last two Israeli wars on Gaza, "Operation Cast Lead" in 2009 and "Operation Protective Edge" in 2014, Israel used its full military force and weapons of questionable legitimacy.

In the words of David Halpin, a retired British surgeon and trauma specialist, Gaza was "used as a laboratory for testing what I call weapons from hell". These included shells containing white phosphorus and dense inert metal explosives (Dime).

Many reports confirm Israel has used shells containing white phosphorus, known as WP. It is regulated under Protocol III of the Convention of Certain Weapons (CCW), part of the Geneva Convention, for use as a smokescreen, but not as a direct weapon against civilians or military targets close to civilians.

Most cases reported of individuals affected by WP in Gaza were civilians.
     The Israeli military has also been accused of using Dime weapons in Gaza since 2006.

WP sticks to the skin and causes severe burns. It eats bones and muscles and damages vital organs.

Recent research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, shows that teratogens found in WP were present in the hair of "newborns with congenital birth defects or developmentally premature birth in a cohort of couples with documented parental exposure to military attacks".

The Israeli forces say they have not used WP on civilians, or for any purpose other than illumination or screening.

Dime attacks


The Israeli military has also been accused of using Dime weapons in Gaza since 2006. This style of explosive was developed by the US army to have a maximum blast effect with a minimal blast radius. 

Dime weapons operate at extremely high temperatures and can burn through body tissue. They also use tungsten, which is carcinogenic. Therefore, if civilians are not killed instantly by the explosion or later from their wounds, they can still die years later from exposure to tungsten.

According to Electronic intifada, Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor, reported that during Operation Cast Lead: "There were a large number of patients with horrendous injuries. Limbs had been cut off as if a huge axe had chopped through them with immense force, cutting through skin, muscles and bones. Bones would be shattered and severed."

Dime munitions, however, are new, and not covered by the CCW. The first step would be bring them under this convention.

For WP which is covered by the CCW the only option is to prohibit it, to stop it causing further suffering.

The international community is obliged to make sure rules are respected, and to stop countries like Israel treating others as laboratories for weapons experiments.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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