Israel is believed to be using controversial white phosphorus shells to screen its assault on the heavily populated Gaza Strip yesterday. The weapon, used by British and US forces in Iraq, can cause horrific burns but is not illegal if used as a smokescreen.
As the Israeli army stormed to the edges of Gaza City and the Palestinian death toll topped 500, the tell-tale shells could be seen spreading tentacles of thick white smoke to cover the troops’ advance. “These explosions are fantastic looking, and produce a great deal of smoke that blinds the enemy so that our forces can move in,” said one Israeli security expert. Burning blobs of phosphorus would cause severe injuries to anyone caught beneath them and force would-be snipers or operators of remote-controlled booby traps to take cover. Israel admitted using white phosphorus during its 2006 war with Lebanon.
The use of the weapon in the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s mostly densely population areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel’s offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.
The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination. However, Charles Heyman, a military expert and former major in the British Army, said: “If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in The Hague. White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.”
The Israeli military last night denied using phosphorus, but refused to say what had been deployed. “Israel uses munitions that are allowed for under international law,” said Captain Ishai David, spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces. “We are pressing ahead with the second stage of operations, entering troops in the Gaza Strip to seize areas from which rockets are being launched into Israel.”
The civilian toll in the first 24 hours of the ground offensive — launched after a week of bombardment from air, land and sea— was at least 64 dead. Among those killed were five members of a family who died when an Israeli tank shell hit their car and a paramedic who died when a tank blasted his ambulance. Doctors at Gaza City’s main hospital said many women and children were among the dead and wounded.
The Israeli army also suffered its first fatality of the offensive when one of its soldiers was killed by mortar fire. More than 30 soldiers were wounded by mortars, mines and sniper fire.
Israel has brushed aside calls for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into the besieged territory, where medical supplies are running short.
With increasingly angry anti-Israeli protests spreading around the world, Gordon Brown described the violence in Gaza as “a dangerous moment”.
White phosphorus: the smoke-screen chemical that can burn to the bone
— White phosphorus bursts into a deep-yellow flame when it is exposed to oxygen, producing a thick white smoke
— It is used as a smokescreen or for incendiary devices, but can also be deployed as an anti-personnel flame compound capable of causing potentially fatal burns
— Phosphorus burns are almost always second or third-degree because the particles do not stop burning on contact with skin until they have entirely disappeared — it is not unknown for them to reach the bone
— Geneva conventions ban the use of phosphorus as an offensive weapon against civilians, but its use as a smokescreen is not prohibited by international law
— Israel previously used white phosphorus during its war with Lebanon in 2006
— It has been used frequently by British and US forces in recent wars, notably during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Its use was criticised widely
— White phosphorus has the slang name “Willy Pete”, which dates from the First World War. It was commonly used in the Vietnam era
Psychoanalysis in ActionThe Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, WCSPP, would like to invite social action and public health organizations to participate in an open discussion about potential collaborations around issues of mental health in the community and in the participating organizations. We would also like to explore and understand the needs of community organizations so we can offer classes or workshops that address these needs. We would like to explore the ways in which our knowledge and experience as psychotherapists and psychoanalysts can support individuals who are working in the trenches of social action projects as well as the larger systems of the organizations. The “Psychoanalysis in Action” committee of WCSPP would like to discuss with other organizations how best to use its resources to support the ongoing work on the ground. We can offer discussion groups that bring a psychoanalytic understanding to questions of human interactions and human suffering. We will explore the value of empathic and containing environments in the work of these organizations. We can also offer classes or workshops on specific topics in psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, couple’s therapy, and group relations. These classes can be tailored to meet the needs of a specific organization. Examples of possible relevant topics are: Self-care, preventing burn out, understanding systemic organizational problems, containment of hostility or violence, transference in the work of human services.Please contact us: Michal Seligman, PsyD[email protected]Aviva Gitlin, PsyD[email protected]--Michal Seligman, Psy.D530 West End Ave. #GR3NY NY 10024212-595-4092[email protected]wcspp.org/... See MoreSee Less
The Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy A welcoming clinical community where contemporary psychoanalytic thought thrives. For the first time, training at WCSPP will be...
Save the Date: Restorative Approaches to Policing Fall InstituteThe National Center on Restorative Justice, a collaboration between Vermont Law School, University of Vermont and University of San Diego's Center for Restorative Justice is excited to announce the Restorative Approaches to Policing Fall Institute will be taking place virtually October 6-8, 2021. This three-day conference will feature keynotes, panels, and workshops highlighting the impact of restorative practices in policing, and bridging the gap between police and communities. restorativejustice.nyc/... See MoreSee Less
NYC Veterans For Peace July Chapter MeetingSpecial Guest Marjorie Cohn onAgent Orange, Julian Assange,and Drone WarfareWednesday, July 21, 6:30 pmZoom link: us02web.zoom.us/j/83426011852?pwd=RzRzTisvLzJuV0ovYUQ4a3NFa3lrZz09Please join us for a special guest at our July meeting. VFP Advisory Board member Marjorie Cohn will discuss the new Agent Orange Legislation HR 3518, recently introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee. Cohn will also discuss legal issues in the case of Julian Assange and targeted killing using drone warfare. Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and a member of the bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the advisory board of Veterans for Peace. She served as one of seven judges from three continents on the International People's Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange in 2009 and she is a co-coordinator of the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign. Her books include Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent and she recently edited Drones and Targeted Killing, a collection of writings about the legal, moral and political ramifications of unmanned aerial warfare. For more, see marjoriecohn.com/. New York City Veterans For Peace chapter meetings are open to the public and all are welcome to join us using the Zoom link above. ... See MoreSee Less