Saturday, January 17, 2009

War Crime

The above photo shows white phosphorus wafers falling on Gaza.  You can see the burning wafers bouncing off the roofs and pavement.  They burn at C2700˚ until they are deprived of oxygen or completely consumed.   Contact with any of the wafers guarantees at best a swift, painful death.  At worst, a slow, agonizing death.  The people in the photo are literally running for their lives.  I photoshopped the picture to lighten the shadow areas, no retouching was done.  Original photo is here.

White Posphorus is a nasty incendiary weapon. It not only burns in contact with oxygen, but the smoke and the burned or unburned residue are highly toxic.  It is permissible under International Law to use incendiaries either as a weapon or as a concealing agent (a smoke screen) against military targets.  However, the use of incendiaries against military targest is prohibited in areas containing civilians.  Indeed, incendiaries are illegal against even military targets as long as other effective weapons are on hand.  Though not classified under International Law as a chemical weapon, many countries regard it as such.
An official Israeli military manual puts it thus:
“Incendiary arms are not banned. Nevertheless, because of their wide range of cover, this protocol of the CCW is meant to protect civilians and forbids making a population center a target for an incendiary weapon attack. Furthermore, it is forbidden to attack a military objective situated within a population center employing incendiary weapons. The protocol does not ban the use of these arms during combat (for instance, in flushing out bunkers).”
The people visible in the photo are unarmed.  Even if there were a brigade of Hamas soldiers off camera, it makes no difference.  You cannot use phosphorus against civilians and there are civilians in the picture.  The picture is therefore definitive evidence of a war crime.  The individuals responsible for authorizing use of the weapon and those responsible for its delivery are war criminals.  Period.