B'Tselem call for Gaza white phosphorus probe

By Jessica Elgot, February 1, 2010
A UN worker flees from the compound in Gaza after it was hit by Israeli fire

A UN worker flees from the compound in Gaza after it was hit by Israeli fire

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has demanded an investigation into the alleged use of white phosphorous at a UN compound in Gaza, which the IDF denies occurred.

A spokesperson for B’Tselem said: “Israel not only covered up the details of the incident but also refrained from stating, in the report, why measures had been taken against those responsible for this particular event, although many lives were lost in dozes of similar incidents throughout the operation.

“The cover-up of this affair demonstrates, yet again, that the army cannot investigate itself. The government of Israel must appoint an independent team to investigate Israel’s suspected violations of international humanitarian law in Operation Cast Lead.”

Two senior IDF officers were found to have “endangered human life” during last year’s Gaza operation, and it was reported that they had been disciplined for exceeding their authority by ordering the use of phosphorous shells against the compound.

An IDF spokesman denied that the men had been disciplined for firing white phosphorous and said it had been a disciplinary because the men had used heavy artillery fire in a built up area. White phosphorous is not mentioned in the official reprimands.

But Haaretz reported that 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 phosphorous shells at Tel al-Hawa "exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardised the lives of others".

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

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

    Last updated: 3:28pm, February 1 2010