The Israeli military is reportedly using napalm-like white phosphorus shells in its all-out attack on Gaza, according to the conservative Times of London. The phosphorus in the smoke-emitting shells causes agonizing, unquenchable burns, sometimes searing flesh right down to the bone.
These savage tools of terror are "legal" when used as smokescreens to mask military operations, although their use as an offensive weapon is war crime. This is a rather ludicrous distinction when the shells are fired into heavily populated civilian areas, exploding and spraying phosphorus in all directions. Anyone who orders their use on cities and refugee camps knows with iron certainty that civilians will be burned, maimed and killed by this chemical weapon. That is to say, they know they will be murdering and mutilating innocent people in the most gruesome manner -- and they give the order anyway.
America's leaders also ordered the murder and mutilation of innocent civilians with chemical weapons in the brutal razing of Fallujah in late 2004 (among many other places). There, in addition to the wide use of "Willy Pete" in the city -- where tens of thousands of people had been sealed off after more than 300,000 had been driven from their homes -- American forces also poured in massive amounts of depleted uranium munitions, thermobaric explosives and jellied gasoline. The Pentagon also declared the entire city a free-fire zone, giving soldiers carte blanche to shoot and kill anyone they saw.
Fallujah was a new Guernica for the 21st century, an abominable crime that should have shamed the country for generations -- yet it passed virtually unnoticed by the American press and public, except for a couple of weeks of stories about the great military victory, and the occasional follow-up from embedded parrots of the powerful telling us how swell life is in the city these days, as America helps it rise from the ashes of its destruction by, er, America. (You can read similar reports in the slavish Russian press about the "new flowering" of Grozny. Apparently, the bones of slaughtered civilians make excellent fertilizer.)
Now it's Gaza's turn for the chemical weapon treatment, as the Times reports:
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 populated areas, is likely to ignite yet more controversy over Israel’s offensive, in which more than 2,300 Palestinians have been wounded.
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