Gaza: Israel must disclose nature of weapons used in attacks
Posted: 23 January 2009
Amnesty International has called on the Israeli authorities to disclose the weapons and munitions their forces used during the three-week military campaign in Gaza.
'We now know that white phosphorous munitions were used in built-up civilian areas, although the Israeli authorities previously denied this. Now we have irrefutable evidence of the use of this weapon, but the doctors who treated the first casualties did not know what had caused their injuries."
Donatella Rovera added:
"Doctors tell us they are encountering new and unexplained patterns of injury among some of the Palestinians injured in Israeli military attacks. Some victims of Israeli air strikes were brought in with charred and sharply severed limbs and doctors treating them need to know what weapons were used."
Dr. Subhi Skeik, head of the Surgical Department at al-Shifa Hospital, told Amnesty International delegates:
'We have many cases of amputations and vascular reconstructions where patients would be expected to recover in the normal way. But to our surprise many of them died an hour or two after operation. It is dramatic.'
"It is vital and urgent that the Israeli authorities disclose all relevant information including what weapons and munitions they used. More lives must not be lost because doctors do not know what caused their patients' injuries and what medical complications may occur. They have to be fully informed so that they can provide life-saving care."
Israel's earlier refusal to confirm that its troops had used white phosphorus meant that doctors were unable to provide correct treatment. White phosphorous particles embedded in the flesh can continue to burn, causing intense pain as the burns grow wider and deeper, and can result in irreparable damage to internal organs. It can contaminate other parts of the patient's body or even those treating the injuries.
'We noticed burns different from anything we had ever dealt with before. After some hours the burns became wider and deeper, gave off an offensive odour and then they began to smoke.'
'Israeli officials have repeatedly said that its military operation was against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza. There can be no excuse for continuing to withhold information vital to effective treatment of people wounded in Israeli attacks. Lack of cooperation by Israel is leading to needless deaths and unnecessary suffering.
"The Israeli authorities should fulfill their obligation to ensure prompt and adequate care for the wounded by making a full disclosure of the weapons and munitions they used in Gaza and provide any other relevant information that may help medical teams."
Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed between 27 December 2008 and the ceasefire declared by Israel on 18 January 2009, including more than 400 children and over 100 women. More than 5,300 Palestinians were injured; many will be disabled for the rest of their lives. In the same period, 13 Israelis were killed, including four soldiers who were killed in friendly fire. Nine other Israelis, including three civilians, were killed in attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
To contact Amnesty's research team in Gaza and for other media information: