Thursday, January 29, 2009

ICRC: Israel's use of white phosphorus not illegal

From AP, Jan 13, 2009, by BRADLEY S. KLAPPER:

GENEVA (AP) — The international Red Cross said Tuesday that Israel has fired white phosphorus shells in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, but has no evidence to suggest the incendiary agent is being used improperly or illegally.

..."In some of the strikes in Gaza it's pretty clear that phosphorus was used," Herby [head of the ICRC's mines-arms unit] told The Associated Press. "But it's not very unusual to use phosphorus to create smoke or illuminate a target. We have no evidence to suggest it's being used in any other way."

In response, the Israeli military said Tuesday that it "wishes to reiterate that it uses weapons in compliance with international law, while strictly observing that they be used in accordance with the type of combat and its characteristics."

Herby said that using phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is legitimate under international law, and that there was no evidence the Jewish state was intentionally using phosphorus in a questionable way, such as burning down buildings or consciously putting civilians at risk.

However, Herby said evidence is still limited because of the difficulties of gaining access to Gaza, where Palestinian health officials say more than 900 people have been killed and 4,250 wounded since Israel launched its offensive late last month. Israel says the operation aims to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks over the border.

...White phosphorus is not considered a chemical weapon.

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