Israel uses cluster bombs, phosphorus shells against civilians
Reports have been coming in from the Gaza Strip indicating that Israel has been using cluster bombs and other controversial weapons in its ongoing assault on the region, which escalated from days of air strikes into a ground invasion on Saturday afternoon. Military analysts examining the latest video footage from the region have confirmed the use of cluster bombs by Israeli forces.
Since the beginning of the Israeli invasion, at least 500 Palestinians have been killed, including 70 children and 27 women. By now a total of 2,650 Gazans have been injured, including 270 children and 650 women. The Israeli daily Haaretz, meanwhile, reported on Sunday that as Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza last Saturday “hundreds of shells were fired, including cluster bombs aimed at open areas.”
Cluster bombs, which scatter hundreds of smaller individual sub-munitions or “bomblets” that often remain undetonated after impact, are especially dangerous when used in a location like the Gaza Strip, which is densely packed with people, Turkish military analysts say.
In 2007, a former Israeli defense official said, “The Israeli military used cluster bombs for two weeks during the 2006 Lebanon war without telling the Israeli government.” At the time, the UN decried the use of the bombs was “completely immoral.”
In May 2008 diplomats from 111 countries meeting in Dublin agreed to a ban on cluster bombs, but the biggest producers and users of the munitions didn’t even participate in the talks that led to the treaty.
The United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel all failed to participate in the 10 days of talks that ended with the agreement unveiled on May 30 last year. The treaty bans the majority of current designs of cluster bombs and requires signatory states to destroy their stockpiles within eight years.
Turkey is also among the countries that did not sign the treaty.
In his closing address to the conference, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said, “Rarely have we seen such single-minded determination to conclude a convention with such high humanitarian goals in such a concentrated period of time.”
Cluster bombs have been used in such countries as Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Countries including the US, India, Pakistan and Israel claim that such munitions are very useful on the battlefield, but opponents say that when the bomblets fail to explode they pose a deadly threat to civilians.
When details of the treaty were announced in May 2008 the US said it would not alter its policy. A statement from the Pentagon said, “While the United States shares the humanitarian concerns of those in Dublin, cluster munitions have demonstrated military utility, and their elimination from US stockpiles would put the lives of our soldiers and those of our coalition partners at risk.”
Turkey produces cluster bombs locally
Turkey has developed its own cluster bombs domestically and exhibited its model during an international defense fair held in Ankara in 2005.
It is believed that the Turkish Air Force tested these bombs during a 2006 exercise code named Anatolian Eagle in the central Anatolian province of Konya.
Turkey also has an unspecified number of US-made cluster bomb munitions, such as CBU-87s, CBU-102s and AGM-154s, in its inventory.
Turkey’s domestically developed cluster bombs are based on CBU-87s, which are said to have been successful during the first test trials staged in 2005. The domestically produced bombs are believed to each contain 800 bomblets.
White phosphorus in Israeli arsenal
Israel has also been using white phosphorus shells in its assault on Gaza, according British daily The Times.
White phosphorus is a chemical agent used to produce smokescreens, but can cause serious burns or death if it comes into contact with human skin. White phosphorus weapons are controversial today because of their potential use against civilians.
While the Chemical Weapons Convention does not include white phosphorous as a chemical weapon, many groups consider it to be one. In recent years, the United States, Israel, Russia and Argentina have used white phosphorus in combat.
Its use by the US has resulted in considerable controversy.
Initial field reports from Iraq referred to the use of white phosphorus against insurgents, but this was officially denied until November 2005, when the Pentagon admitted to the use of white phosphorus, although arguing that its use for producing obscuring smoke is legal and does not violate the Chemical Weapons Convention.
A Pentagon spokesman also admitted that white phosphorous “was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants” in Iraq, although not against civilians.
Meanwhile, it is not yet clear whether Israel has used depleted uranium during its Gaza assault.
Depleted uranium weapons have been used in armed conflicts over the past 15 years, despite being radioactive and chemically toxic. They cause serious health problems after the conflict for both soldiers and civilians.
On Nov. 7, 2006, Gulf News quoted a doctor at a Palestinian hospital as accusing Israel of using a type of chemical ammunition that caused burns and injuries in soft tissue that could not be traced by X-ray.
Chemicals or depleted uranium could have been used in producing the new type of ammunition, according to Dr. Jomaa al-Saqqa, head of the emergency unit at Gaza’s main medical facility, the Al-Shifa Hospital, Gulf News said at the time.
On July 8, 2006, Global Research quoted Professor Paola Manduca from the University of Genoa as saying that new and strange symptoms had been reported amongst the wounded and the dead during Israel’s assault against Hezbullah targets in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
“Bodies with dead tissue and no apparent wounds; shrunken corpses; civilians with heavy damage to lower limbs requiring amputation, which is nevertheless followed by unstoppable necrosis and death; descriptions of extensive internal wounds with no trace of shrapnel; corpses blackened but not burnt; and others heavily wounded that did not bleed,” were amongst the unprecedented injuries cited by Professor Manduca, according to Global Research.