By David Wilson 23 July 2014. Stop the War Coalition
If history is anything to go by, Israel will not be held to account for its violations of international law and use of horrific weapons in its attack on Gaza.
A Guardian article on 20 July reported on the accusations by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights that the Israeli military are using flechette shells — which spray out thousands of tiny and potentially lethal metal darts — against civilians in Gaza.
And evidence is growing that it is not just flechettes that are terrifying the trapped people of this ghetto. To which the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) responds that, “As a rule, the IDF only employs weapons that have been determined lawful under international law, and in a manner which fully conforms with the laws of armed conflict”.
International laws and conventions have been constructed to decide how killing can take place. Rule books for war define whether you can use weapon X, but not weapon Y – a sort of thou-shalt-not-kill with Y because it is an indecent way to murder your enemy. Here are four horrific weapons, for which there is growing evidence of deployment by Israel in its current invasion of Gaza.
Fletchettes artillery or rocket rounds contain thousands of 4-cm feathered dart needles that will penetrate anything. These anti-personnel weapons are detonated in the air, spreading up to 8000 metal darts over a 20-30 meter “kill zone”.
The effect is indiscriminate death or wounding.
The use of flechettes is outlawed by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 which forbid employing “arms, projectiles or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering” and by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.
White Phosphorous is a poisonous, combustible non-metal is referred to in the US military as ‘Shake ‘n Bake’. It ignites spontaneously, glows in the dark and removes oxygen from the air while emitting highly toxic fumes.
The effect is death by asphyxiation and/or by inhaling poison.
White phosphorus is outlawed under the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibits “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases”, by Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons which “prohibits or restricts the use of Incendiary Weapons” and The Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College states, “It is against the law of land warfare to employ white phosphorous against personnel targets.”
Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME)
DIMES are made from a mixture of explosive materials such as HMX, a colourless liquid chemical explosive, and RDX, an explosive nitroamine and small particles of chemically-inert material such as tungsten. Upon detonation, the casing breaks open into extremely small particles. It is meant to limit the distance at which the explosive causes damage.
The effect is horrific wounds and severe biological and carcinogenic illnesses caused by the bomb’s micro-shrapnel. In 2009, Italian scientists affiliated with the New Weapons Research Committee stated that DIME wounds were “untreatable” because the powdered tungsten cannot be surgically removed.
Depleted uranium (DU)
Depleted uranium is the waste product produced when uranium ore is enriched. Because it is so heavy, 1.7 times denser than lead, a DU shell can punch through buildings. On impact, radioactive dust is scattered.
The effect is death on immediate impact or death years, or generations, later. DU can cause bowel diseases, kidney failure, cancer and mutation of chromosomes.
DU is outlawed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Genocide Convention, the Convention Against Torture, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949; the Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980 and by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.
Murder on an industrial scale
Unsurprisingly, the Israeli military is reluctant to speak openly about their munitions, but it has admitted that flechettes were fired on the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in Gaza. This, says B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, is against international law, one of the most fundamental principles of which is the obligation to distinguish between those who are involved and those who are not involved in the fighting, and to avoid to the extent possible injury to those who are not involved.
For the same reason, the white phosphorus that Israel is alleged to have dropped on the al-Shuja’iya and al-Tuffah neighborhoods of Gaza City is tantamount to a war crime. Israel used white phosphorous extensively in its 2008/9 Operation Cast Lead invasion, as reported by Human Rights Watch.
Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital has found evidence of DIME wounds to civilians in the current Israeli attack, and the Al Ray Media Agency claims proof of their use. DU has been widely used in Israeli shells and other ammunition for many years.
All of these weapons are being used against civilians in Gaza, and not for the first time. International conventions, protocols and agreements prohibit their use in war zones. But the bombardment of Gaza is not a war. It is murder on an industrial scale and, what is even worse, an attempt at generational genocide. In the words of the former Minister of Internal Security and Shin Bet director, Avi Dichter: “Gaza should be wiped clean with bombs.”
On 23 July, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said, “Israel’s military actions in Gaza could amount to war crimes. There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated.”
If history is anything to go by, Israel will not be held to account for for these crimes, any more than it has in the past, and it will continue to use with impunity the terrifying weapons described above, in its endless war on Palestinians and occupation of their land.
David Wilson can be contacted through his website: www.davidwilson.org.uk
Source: Stop the War Coalition
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