Palestinians try to put out burning chemical banned as a weapon under United Nations convention
The Guardian has obtained vivid footage of the effect of white phosphorus allegedly used by Israel during a bomb attack on Gaza last week.
The film was made by Fida Qishta, a camerawoman working for the International Solidarity Movement, a non-governmental organisation operating in Gaza. It was shot on Wednesday 14 January in Khoza’a, east of Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip.
It shows clumps of the burning chemical on the ground as locals try to put it out by covering it with dust, mud and grass. The chemical, which locals describe as phosphorus, fails to go out and continues to burn through the debris piled upon it. As they kick it about, it subdivides into smaller lumps and continues to burn.
Evidence of white phosphorus in Gaza Link to this video
The use of white phosphorus as a weapon — as opposed to its use as an obscurant and infrared blocking smoke screen — is banned by the United Nation’s third convention on conventional weapons, which covers the use of incendiary devices. Though Israel is not a signatory to the convention, its military manuals reflect the restrictions on its use in that convention.
A second film reveals the impact of the white phosphorus on the human body. A 15-year-old boy is shown in a Gaza hospital receiving treatment for burns to his back and right arm which a doctor explains were caused by the chemical, which appears to have eaten into his flesh in several places.
Lying on his hospital bed, the boy tells how he was sitting with his family in their four-storey house when an Israeli bomb hit, killing his sister with shrapnel.
His testimony follows an earlier film by Qishta which contains graphic descriptions of attacks by Israeli forces in the same area.
Amnesty International said today that Israel has committed a war crime by using phosphorous over Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods. The human rights organisation also said they had fresh evidence of its use.
“Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army,” said Christopher Cobb-Smith, a weapons expert who is in Gaza as part of a four-person Amnesty International fact-finding team. “White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield. It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it that should never be used on civilian areas.”