Thursday, January 15, 2009

'Israel should stop using phosphorus'

'Israel should stop using phosphorus'

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Human Rights Watch has renewed its call for a halt in Israel's use of white phosphorus ammunitions in the heavily-populated Gaza Strip.

"This is a chemical compound that burns structures and burns people," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) at a Washington press conference on Wednesday.

"This should not be used in populated areas," said Roth.

Israel has insisted that all weapons being used in its Gaza war were within the bounds of international law.

However, the group's director said that HRW's own observers had witnessed assaults using phosphorous -- or a substance very much like it.

"The person who is our military expert, who worked for the Pentagon, identified this as white phosphorous," Roth said.

"Even if Israel might have some minor chemical variation of white phosphorous so that the thing they're using has a new name, the effect is absolutely the same," he said.

White phosphorus, classified as a 'chemical weapon' by the US intelligence, is an incendiary material that causes horrific burns, severe injuries or death when it comes in contact with skin.

Under the Geneva Treaty of 1980, the use of white phosphorous as a weapon is prohibited, however, there is no blanket ban on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination.

Tel Aviv has refused to comment on the types of munitions it is using in the conflict which has so far left over 1,025 Palestinians dead and more than 4,700 others wounded.

Israel has admitted, however, that it used white phosphorus during its 33-day war against Lebanon in 2006.

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