Haaretz: Israel: 2 IDF officers endangered human life in Gaza with white phosphorous
- Israel: 2 IDF officers endangered human life in Gaza with white phosphorous
By Anshel Pfeffer Haaretz Last update - 08:05 01/02/2010
An Israel Defense Forces brigadier general and another officer with the rank
of colonel endangered human life during last year's military campaign in the
Gaza Strip by firing white phosphorous munitions in the direction of a
compound run by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the
Israeli government says.
The finding aknowledges, at least in part, allegations by international
organizations. It was contained in a report that the government provided to
the United Nations over the weekend in response to last September's
Goldstone Commission report.
Gaza Division Commander Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade
Commander Col. Ilan Malka, were the subject of disciplinary action by GOC
Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant after headquarters staff found that
the men exceeded their authority in approving the use of phosphorus shells
that endangered human life, the Israeli government report said.
The incident in question occurred on January 15 of last year, two days
before the end of Operation Cast Lead, in the southern Gaza City
neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, at a time when the Givati brigade and other
Israeli forces were in the area.
In the course of engagement with a Hamas squad, which according to IDF
intelligence possessed advanced anti-tank missiles, it was decided to use
phosphorus smoke munitions to create cover that would make it harder for the
Hamas fighters to see the IDF soldiers.
According to Israeli intelligence, the Hamas forces were stationed in a
commanding location from which they could easily see the soldiers and the
UNRWA compound that was located between the Israeli forces and the Hamas
The munitions disperse hundreds of pieces of felt impregnated with
phosphorus and at least some of the pieces fell into the UNRWA compound,
causing injury to an UNRWA employee there as well as to two Palestinian
civilians who took cover at the location.
Many human rights organizations said that the IDF had illegally used the
phosphorus munitions, which are shot from 155 mm. cannon, and that the
material caused many burn injuries among the Palestinian population. The IDF
responded that the munitions were permitted under international conventions
and that similar shells are in use by other Western armies. The army also
contended that the munitions were used in locations remote from
heavily -populated areas.
With the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi
Ashkenazi ordered the convening of five special investigative committees
each headed by an officer with the rank of colonel to examine some of the
serious allegations leveled against the army. One of the committees examined
the use of phosphorus shells.
After three months, at the end of April of last year, then deputy chief of
staff Maj. Gen. Dan Harel presented the committees' findings and with
respect to phosphorus munitions said that they had found no instances in
which shells were fired in violation of orders and in any event, they were
fired in open areas.
Nonetheless, the report that the Israeli government gave to the United
Nations last Friday explicitly states that the two senior officers were
disciplined after one of the investigating committees noted among its
findings that they approved the firing of phosphorus shells at Tel al-Hawa
"exceeding their authority in a manner that jeopardized the lives of
The report to the UN also says that Ashkenazi recently ordered the convening
of a sixth committee to examine additional allegations made against the IDF
as well as an incident which one of the previous panels had been unable to
The investigative teams have been looking into only the most serious and
prominent of the allegations made as a result of Cast Lead. This is in
addition to military police probes that were carried out, or are still in
progress, into about 150 alleged incidents of improper conduct on the part
of soldiers involving civilians and Palestinian property during the Gaza
Some of the incidents were raised in operational IDF debriefings held after
Cast Lead, but most came to light following complaints by human rights
organizations, individual Palestinian civilians and press reports. Twelve
incidents were raised for the first time in the Goldstone Commission report,
which was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council.
In the course of the IDF investigations, about 500 soldiers were questioned
and nearly 100 Palestinian civilians were interviewed at the Erez checkpoint
on the Israel-Gaza border. As a result of the IDF's investigations, 36
criminal investigation files have been opened so far, but criminal legal
proceedings have so far been opened in only one case, in which two Givati
brigade soldiers were convicted of stealing a Palestinian civilian's credit
Dershowitz: Goldstone is a traitor to the Jews
Prominent political commentator and pro-Israel campaigner Professor Alan
Dershowitz slammed jurist Richard Goldstone, the architect of a UN report
which accuses Israel of Gaza war crimes, calling him a traitor to the Jewish
people, Army Radio reported yesterday. Dershowitz and Goldstone were
colleagues and close friends for many years before the UN Gaza probe, but
once Goldstone published his report the ties between the two were severed.