Blind and burnt: Mahmoud, 14, young victim of banned white phosphorus shelling

21 01 2009
Mahmoud Mattar lies unconscious in hospital. Two of his friends who were walking with him were killed instantly

Mahmoud Mattar lies unconscious in hospital. 'Two of his friends who were walking with him were killed instantly'

by: Sheera Frenkel, Times

Jan 19, 2009

Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip may be over but Mahmoud Mattar, 14, will not be able to sense the quiet that has descended on his home town of Jabalya.

Blinded in both eyes, with third-degree burns over much of his torso, Mahmoud lies unconscious in the Sheikh Zayid Hospital on the outskirts of Cairo. He has said little since January 6, when an Israeli attack on his village in northern Gaza left him nearly dead on the street outside his mosque. Doctors say that he will never see again – and that the burns on his body were caused by white phosphorus, a controversial incendiary weapon that Israel originally denied using.

“He was walking to the mosque when the attack started,” his uncle, Nahad Mattar, said. “Two of his friends who were walking with him were killed instantly. Their bodies are in pieces. He was hit by something and his body began to burn.

“There were bits of blood and skin all over him. We couldn’t tell what was his and what was other people.”

Witnesses in Jabalya describe thesigns of white phosphorus shelling – thick white smoke, a strong smell and fires that burn until covered with sand – and say that dozens more experienced burns in the same attack.

Israel, which originally denied the use of white phosphorus in Gaza when questioned by The Times two weeks ago, has since said that all weapons used in Gaza were “within the scope of international law”. Most Nato countries, including Britain and the US, use white phosphorus to create smokescreens. Its use as a weapon of war in civilian areas is banned under the Geneva Convention of 1980.

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Israel attacks UN aid compound with White Phosphorous Shells

17 01 2009

Israel is using white phosphorus in Gaza attack

12 01 2009

(Edited from: WAFA news, 11 Jan 2009)

Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus as an “obscurant” : a chemical used to hide military operations. White phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world.

 “White phosphorous can burn down houses and cause horrific burns when it touches the skin,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “Israel should not use it in Gaza’s densely populated areas.”

HRW “believes that the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life. This concern is amplified given the technique evidenced in media photographs of air-bursting white phosphorus projectiles.

Air bursting of white phosphorus artillery spreads 116 burning wafers over an area between 125 and 250 meters in diameter, depending on the altitude of the burst, thereby exposing more civilians and civilian infrastructure to potential harm than a localized ground burst.