IDF officers disciplined for Gaza 'white phosphorus'

By Jessica Elgot, February 1, 2010

Two senior IDF officers have been found to have “endangered human life” during last year’s Gaza operation, for reportedly firing white phosphorus towards a UN compound, injuring an aid worker.

Gaza Division Commander Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade Commander Colonel Ilan Malka were subject to disciplinary action from the IDF command for but details of the officers’ punishments were not revealed.

Haaretz reported that the IDF investigation found the men had exceeded their authority when they approved the use of white phosphorus fired in the direction of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Tel al-Hawa, southern Gaza City.

An IDF spokesman denied that the men had been disciplined for firing white phosphorus shells and said it had been a discplinary because of artillary fire in a built up area. White phosphorus is not mentioned in the official reprimands.

But in an Israeli government report given to the UN last week, the senior officers are referred to as being disciplined because they approved the firing of phosphorus shells at Tel al-Hawa "exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of others".

Many human rights organisations and the UN Goldstone Report into Operation Cast Lead said that the white phosphorus had been illegally used by the IDF.

Pieces of felt, soaked in white phosphorus are dropped, emitting smoke and burning the skin of victims.

A UN employee and two Palestinians were injured during the attack in question.

The Israeli forces have previously argued that the smoke, emitted when the felt is dropped, was used to create cover for the IDF to attack Hamas fighters, whom they knew were located behind the UN compound.

The disciplinary comes as part of a wider IDF investigation into 150 of the most serious incidents during Operation Cast Lead.

The investigation was ordered in the wake of the UN Goldstone Report into the conflict, which found both Israel and Hamas guilty of war crimes. Human Rights organisations and members of the IDF have also recommended incidents they feel worthy of investigation.

Last updated: 1:15pm, February 1 2010