It just became a lot tougher for Israel to claim that it doesn't use white phosphorous as a weapon
The effects of white phosphorous. These photos were taken after an American attack in Fallujah, Iraq.
From the Times:
The main UN compound in Gaza was left in flames today after being struck by Israeli artillery fire, and a spokesman said that the building had been hit by shells containing the incendiary agent white phosphorous.The UN gives Israel the GPS coordinates of all of their facilities in the region, in order to decrease the likelihood of accidental attack. Nevertheless, the UN compound sustained several Israeli attacks:
The attack on the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) came as Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, arrived in Israel on a peace mission and plunged Israel's relations with the world body to a new low. Mr Ban expressed his "strong protest and outrage" at the shelling and demanded an investigation, only to be told by apologetic Israeli leaders that their forces had been returning fire from within the UN compound.
UNWRA, which looks after around four million Palestinian refugees in the region, suspended its operations in Gaza after the attack, in which three of its employees were injured. Chris Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman, said that the building had been used to shelter hundreds of people fleeing Israel’s 20-day offensive in Gaza. He said that pallets with supplies desperately needed by Palestinians in Gaza were on fire.
"What more stark symbolism do you need?" he said. "You can’t put out white phosphorous with traditional methods such as fire extinguishers. You need sand, we don’t have sand."
The Israeli military has denied using white phosphorous shells in the Gaza offensive, although an investigation by The Times has revealed that dozens of Palestinians in Gaza have sustained serious injuries from the substance, which burns at extremely high temperatures. The Geneva Convention of 1980 proscribes the use of white phosphorous as a weapon of war in civilian areas, although it can be used to create a smokescreen. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said today that all weapons used in Gaza were "within the scope of international law".
Several organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch, said that they were "certain" that Israel was using white phosphorous shells in Gaza. Human rights workers said that the use of phosphorous in the densely populated Gaza City could constitute a war crime.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Ging, director of operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), said the area surrounding its compound had been under "relentless artillery and tank bombardment all night and all day".I guess we now know why Israel has barred journalists from Gaza. When human rights organizations accuse them of using white phosphorous as a direct fire weapon, they just deny it. When they're caught using it in multiple attacks on UN facilities, they make the ridiculous assertion that Israeli troops came under fire that originated in the UN facility.
Some rounds, Mr Ging said, had struck a part of the compound where about 700 residents of nearby blocks of flats were taking shelter. Three people were injured in the bombardment. "Then an hour later, in spite of our protests and real-time discussions with the Israeli liaison, three rounds that emitted phosphorous struck the other corner of the compound," he added.
A more likely explanation is that Israeli troops deliberately attacked the UN compound in retaliation for UN reports of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. It's hard to see how else UN facilities could come under fire over and over again in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon.
It's ironic that the US invaded Iraq over the issue of chemical weapons and other such weapons of mass destruction, but continues to supply Israel with weapons. A Pentagon report declassified in 2005 asserted that white phosphorous is a chemical weapon, and condemned Saddam Hussein for using it against Kurdish rebels. Apparently, though, anything is excusable if Israel does it.
(cross posted at appletree)