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Sunday, April 28, 2013
Israel gives up white phosphorus, because 'it doesn't photograph well'
A certain air of nostalgia dominated Maariv’s headline last Thursday: “Due to criticism in the world, IDF parts ways with white phosphorus”: just like the old Galil assault rifle and the old two-way radios that generations of soldiers grew familiar with.
Ghada Abu Halima injured by white phosphorus
A couple of years ago we learned the IDF was giving up its cans of preserved meat (the kosher version of SPAM). Now, it’s white phosphorus that we say goodbye to.
[Twilight. The IDF and white phosphorus exchange a final gaze. A sad violin tune is heard. Curtain down.]
So the IDF is looking for a replacement for the white phosphorus bombs. A senior officer in the ground forces explained: “As we learned during Cast Lead, it [white phosphorus] doesn’t photograph well, so we are reducing the supply and we will not purchase beyond what we already have.”
This item caught me by surprise. The IDF is giving up white phosphorus? Wait a minute; the IDFnever used white phosphorus during Cast Lead. So how exactly do you give up something you we never had? Chemical weapons are something the Syrians use, no?
Okay, then the IDF remembered that it got it wrong again and that it did use white phosphorus in urban areas. Two hundred bombs, actually. But this was only in order to create a “smoke screen,” and there is nothing wrong with that. And if there was something wrong, it’s insignificant and unintentional, and it would be thoroughly investigated, so that no stone is left unturned.
That’s all nice and well, except that at least 12 Gazans met their horrific death this way, burned to death by white phosphorus. Among them were three women, six children and a 15-month-old baby girl. Dozens more suffered burns from the material which continues to burn through flesh and tissue until it reaches the bone. Doctors in Gaza were helpless in treating the unfamiliar burns. Israel didn’t give them time to prepare themselves; white phosphorus shells hit Al-Quds Hospital and completely burned the top two floors.
These facts were already known in the first days of Cast Lead. Human Rights Watch published a thorough investigation – one of the most thorough I have read – of Israel’s use of white phosphorus and its devastating effects. IDF soldiers who took part in the Gaza campaign alsotestified on the extensive use of white phosphorus, including direct fire on houses suspected of being booby-trapped (and not for “masking” purposes as the IDF later claimed). More