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Depleted uranium found in Gaza victims

Source:Times archives
Date:06/01-2009
Medics tell Press TV they have found traces of depleted uranium in some Gaza residents wounded in Israel's ground offensive on the strip.

Norwegian medics told Press TV correspondent Akram al-Sattari that some of the victims who have been wounded since Israel began its attacks on the Gaza Strip on December 27 have traces of depleted uranium in their bodies.

The report comes after Israeli tanks and troops swept across the border into Gaza on Saturday night, opening a ground operation after eight days of intensive attacks by Israeli air and naval forces on the impoverished region.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Sunday that the wide-ranging ground offensive in the Gaza Strip would be "full of surprises."

A ground offensive in the densely-populated Gaza is expected to drastically increase the death toll of the civilian population.

The latest assaults bring the number of Palestinians killed to over 488 with 2790 others wounded. The UN says that about 25 percent of the casualties were civilian deaths - including at least 34 children.

According to Israeli army officials, at least 30 of its soldiers have been wounded since the start of the ground campaign.

Amid global condemnation of the ongoing violence in the region, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a united approach to resolve the crisis.

"Once again, the world is watching in dismay the dysfunctionality of the Security Council," UN General Assembly chief Miguel d'Escoto said Sunday.

According to diplomatic sources, the US blocked a Security Council resolution, with US Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff arguing that an official statement that criticizes both Israel and Hamas would not be helpful.

The White House has so far declined to comment on whether an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza is a justified measure.

Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorus shells

The Times

Sheera Frenkel in Jerusalem and Michael Evans, Defence Editor

Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.

As the Israeli army stormed to the edges of Gaza City and the Palestinian death toll topped 500, the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops' advance. "These explosions are fantastic looking, and produce a great deal of smoke that blinds the enemy so that our forces can move in," said one Israeli security expert. Burning blobs of phosphorus would cause severe injuries to anyone caught beneath them and force would-be snipers or operators of remote-controlled booby traps to take cover. Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.

The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, one of the world's mostly densely population areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel's offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.

The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination. However, Charles Heyman, a military expert and former major in the British Army, said: "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."

The Israeli military last night denied using phosphorus, but refused to say what had been deployed. "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."

The civilian toll in the first 24 hours of the ground offensive - launched after a week of bombardment from air, land and sea- was at least 64 dead. Among those killed were five members of a family who died when an Israeli tank shell hit their car and a paramedic who died when a tank blasted his ambulance. Doctors at Gaza City's main hospital said many women and children were among the dead and wounded.

The Israeli army also suffered its first fatality of the offensive when one of its soldiers was killed by mortar fire. More than 30 soldiers were wounded by mortars, mines and sniper fire.

Israel has brushed aside calls for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged territory, where medical supplies are running short.

With increasingly angry anti-Israeli protests spreading around the world, Gordon Brown described the violence in Gaza as "a dangerous moment".

White phosphorus: the smoke-screen chemical that can burn to the bone

- White phosphorus bursts into a deep-yellow flame when it is exposed to oxygen, producing a thick white smoke

- It is used as a smokescreen or for incendiary devices, but can also be deployed as an anti-personnel flame compound capable of causing potentially fatal burns

- Phosphorus burns are almost always second or third-degree because the particles do not stop burning on contact with skin until they have entirely disappeared - it is not unknown for them to reach the bone

- Geneva conventions ban the use of phosphorus as an offensive weapon against civilians, but its use as a smokescreen is not prohibited by international law

- Israel previously used white phosphorus during its war with Lebanon in 2006

- It has been used frequently by British and US forces in recent wars, notably during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its use was criticised widely

- White phosphorus has the slang name "Willy Pete", which dates from the First World War. It was commonly used in the Vietnam era