Israel is believed to be using phosphorus shells to screen it’s assault on the Gaza Strip. The weapon has been used by British and US troops in Iraq.
White phosphorus shells are no illegal if they are used as a smokescreen. For those unfortunate enough to be hit by them receive severe burns.
The smoke from this type of weapon can screen the approach of advancing troops. Those who are hit by the burning blobs of phosphorus would suffer severe injuries. In 2006 Israel used the weapons during its war with Lebanon.
Because of the dense population of the Gaza Strip the move to use this type of weapon is highly controversial.
Charles Heyman, a military expert and former major in the British Army is quoted by Times On Line.
“If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in The Hague. White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.”
Last night Israel denied the use of this weapon. It also refused to admit to the weapons that have been used during the conflict with Hamas.
“Israel uses munitions that are allowed for under international law,” said Captain Ishai David, spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces. “We are pressing ahead with the second stage of operations, entering troops in the Gaza Strip to seize areas from which rockets are being launched into Israel.”
During the first 24 hours of ground offensive there are reports of 64 civilians killed. This is on top of the mass civilian causalities during the previous week of combat. Doctors at the main hospital in Gaza City have said that women and children are among the dead and injured.
Israel is not allowing for a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid into Gaza. Medical supplies, which are needed for the injured civilians are running short.
Some facts about white phosphorus:
When white phosphorus is exposed to oxygen it bursts into a deep-yellow flame and then produces a thick white smoke.
It is capable of producing severe burns, almost always second to third degree. This is because the particles do not stop burning on contact with skin until they have entirely disappeared. It is known that the burns have reached the bone level in the past.
Geneva conventions have banned the use of phosphorus as a weapon against civilians. It is allowed as a smokescreen though.
Since it was used during World War I the slang name for white phosphorus is “Willy Pete.” It was used often during the Vietnam Ear.