Reports of Chemical Weapons use in Syria: A Chronology – Working Draft Part 2 [the attacks on 21 Aug 2013]

A Chronology of Reports of
Chemical Weapons use in Syria

Working Draft Part 2 [21 Aug 2013]

This is an account of all the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, including warnings of imminent use. The Chronology is ordered according to the dates on which the events happened
[rather than the dates on which they were reported]

Read Part 1 of this Chronology here

Read Part 3 of this Chronology here

21 August 2013: evidence emerged from Syria of pre-dawn attacks including use of chemical weapons on the Ghouta area in the Damascus suburbs contested by rebel forces and Syrian army units. This attack differs from all previous CW attacks in Syria because of the large number of victims: over 1500 are believed to have died.

Human Rights Watch [HRW] wrote, in their report issued on 10 September 2013: “As more details became available, it became clear that the attack had affected two separate opposition-controlled districts in Damascus Suburbs governorate, located 16 kilometers apart. According to local residents, the Zamalka neighborhood in Eastern Ghouta was struck by rockets at some time between 2 and 3 a.m., and the Moadamiya neighborhood in Western Ghouta was struck by rockets at about 5 a.m., shortly after the completion of the Muslim morning prayer”.

HRW map showing the likely source of CW-carrying rockets fired on Ghouta areas
HRW map showing the likely source of CW-carrying rockets fired on Ghouta

One witness in Moadamiya told HRW, “We didn’t smell anything” — even as people began exhibiting symptoms and fainting, . [In its pure form, Sarin is a clear, colorless, tasteless and odorless liquid. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Emergency Preparedness and Response: Facts about Sarin,” here.]

“Sarin is a toxic but non-persistent nerve agent. Exposure is usually due to inhalation, and the agent rather quickly degrades and disperses into atmosphere… There are reports that people were able to visit the sites of the attacks a few hours post attack and to handle remnants of rockets associated with the attacks without suffering signs and symptoms of exposure to nerve agent. This suggests that the nerve agent involved is more likely to be the less persistent and less toxic agent, Sarin, rather than VX… The large number of victims of the attack, the clinical signs and symptoms that characterized both the victims and, later, the medical workers who treated the victims, and the fact that areas near attack sites were apparently safe to enter soon after the attack, all strongly suggest that the attack involved an organophosphate chemical more toxic that the pesticide Malathion, and was most likely a toxic but non-persistent chemical warfare nerve agent, such as Sarin, which Syria is believed to possess.

“There is laboratory evidence that Sarin gas has been used in previous attacks allegedly carried out by Syrian government forces, including an earlier attack in Ghouta. A photographer for Le Monde newspaper, Laurent Van der Stockt, was exposed to what he believed was a chemical weapon attack while in Jobar in April 2013. In laboratory tests conducted upon his return to France, he tested positive for exposure to Sarin. [See Le Monde article published on 27 May 2013, here, which is referred to in Part 1 of this Working Draft Chronology]

The HRW report says “The precise identification of the specific chemical agent used in the August 21 attack requires the collection of samples from weapon remnants, environmental samples, and physiological samples from those directly or indirectly exposed to the chemical agent. Subsequent specialized analyses of these samples can reveal the specific agent itself or the reaction or degradation products characteristic of a specific agent.  The UN investigative team has collected such samples, and will issue its findings after the completion of its investigation… This is posted here.

Moadamiya  – [western Ghouta]

A witness in Moadamiya media center told HRW that “all of the rockets were of the same type”  [identified by Human Rights Watch as a Soviet- produced 140mm rocket], and said he counted 7 rockets which fell in two areas of Moadamiya.

HRW says “the attack on Moadamiya on August 21 represents the first known appearance of the 140mm rocket, which has not [previously] been documented in use in the current Syrian conflict”.

“The 140mm rocket is documented in standard reference materials as being present in the Syrian government’s weapons arsenal. Designed in the 1950s, the Soviet Union transferred 200 BM-14 launchers, the most common launcher for 140mm rockets made by the Soviet Union, to  Syria in 1967-1969… according to the database on arms transfers maintained by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“According to a declassified US munitions catalogue and standard international reference materials published by Jane’s, only three warheads were produced for 140mm rockets:
• M-14-OF high explosive-fragmentation;
• M-14-D smoke containing white phosphorus;
• A chemical warhead containing 2.2 kilograms of Sarin.

“Based on witness statements describing the impact of the rockets and the absence of rocket remnants or reported types of injuries consistent with an attack using high explosive or incendiary payloads, Human Rights Watch believes there is little possibility that the rocket could have been carrying high explosive or incendiary payloads. Given the large number of casualties, this leaves a chemical agent warhead as a strong remaining possibility, which would be consistent with the symptoms displayed by the victims.

HRW graphic showing origin + flight paths of sarin-loaded rockets - 17 Sept 2013

Zamalka – [Eastern Ghouta]

Human Rights Watch documented the use of apparent surface-to-surface 330mm rockets in Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta on August 21. We found no evidence of any use of the 140mm rocket system used in the Moadamiya attack in Eastern Ghouta… Human Rights Watch [was able] to confirm at least four strike sites in Zamalka where at least eight 330mm rockets struck on August 21.  This is unlikely to be a complete account of the number of rockets used in the attack… Based on the lack of evidence of a high-explosive or incendiary attack, and symptoms of victims that are consistent with a chemical attack, Human Rights Watch believes that the 330mm rockets found at the sites were used in the alleged chemical attack…

“The 330mm surface-to-surface rocket that appears to be associated with the August 21 attack on Eastern Ghouta is of a type not listed in standard, specialized, international or declassified reference materials. It is a rocket type that has not been documented before the outbreak of the current Syrian conflict, although it has been documented in a number of other attacks on opposition held areas in the months prior to the Eastern Ghouta attack, including at least one attack in which opposition activists claimed the government had carried out an alleged chemical attack (see next page)…

“Measurements determine that the estimated volume of nerve agent inside the warheads would be approximately 50 to 60 liters, compared to 2.2 liters for the warheads designed for the 140mm rockets.

“Prior to each attack, the warhead of the 330mm rocket would have to be filled with the 50 to 60 liters of nerve agent, a dangerous process that is normally conducted by specialized teams wearing protective gear to prevent exposure to the chemical agents. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any information that the opposition forces have ever possessed the amounts of chemical weapon agent necessary to deploy such rockets, or that they possess the expertise needed to fill the warheads without accidental exposure to the deadly nerve agent…

“[The] dimensions are compatible with the Iranian-produced 333mm Falaq-2 launcher, or close copies and derivatives thereof.  Iran is believed to be the only country in the world to produce rocket launchers in the 333mm category. Videos have appeared showing Syrian forces using the Falaq-2 launching system to launch what appears to be versions of the 330mm rockets, although the launches seen in the video occurred during daytime and are thus unrelated to the August 21 nighttime attack.

“The non-aerodynamic design of the rocket indicates that the rocket would be relatively short-ranged and not capable of accurate targeting. The consistency in the design of these rockets suggests that they were locally but industrially produced, and apparently designed to be deployed with the Iranian 333mm launchers or derivatives thereof.

“While Human Rights Watch cannot establish where the rockets were manufactured, their basic design and unique size matching the Iranian rocket launching system suggest a Syrian industrial origin. The production of a weapon specifically designed to deliver chemical weapons would be a violation of the 1993 Convention on Chemical Weapons, of which only five countries, including Syria, are not parties [n.b. – Syria acceded on 14 September].  While a separate, high-explosive warhead version of the rocket appears to exist based on attacks in other areas, three design differences appear to distinguish the suspected chemical weapon type from the suspected high-explosive type… All of the 330mm rocket remnants identified by Human Rights Watch in the Eastern Ghouta Zamalka attack are of the suspected chemical weapons variant, with red numbering, a shorter-sized warhead, and an additional fill plug.  Most significantly, the design of the payload of the rockets found at the scene of the Eastern Ghouta August 21 attack strongly indicates that it is compatible, and perhaps specifically designed, for the delivery of chemical agents…

Source: “Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria”, Human Rights Watch, 10 September 2013.  Posted here.


21 August 2013:  Alternate theory [Tom Wyld]: “Based on my past analyses of the fighting in East Ghouta and appraisals of their involvement in Syrian command and control, I assess as highly likely that Hezbollah and Sepah Pasdaran (Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) were involved in the attack.  If reports are accurate, this is an extraordinary military and geo-political development with grave international consequences”. This is posted here.

End of Part 2

Khalass! Ramallah rally in support of Egypt, and against police state at home

Hundreds – and perhaps at least 1,000 people – showed up for a rally in Ramallah on Saturday that was called to support the freedom and democracy protests in Tunisia and especially now in Egypt.

It was a brave act. Four previous demonstrations had been suppressed since December by Palestinian security — roughly, and sometimes brutally.

“I’m supporting freedom, democracy and development”, said Mohamed, one of the organizers said after the event, “and whoever brings it to the Egyptian people, I will support”.

And, he said, “the first thing we need to do here is also to change the leadership of the Palestinian people, before new elections”.

Photo of Manara rally in Ramallah on 5 February by Hamza Abu 3ayash

Photo of 5 February rally in Ramallah's Manara Square  taken by Hamza Abu 3ayash

Continue reading Khalass! Ramallah rally in support of Egypt, and against police state at home

Gaza civilians: exposed to arbitrary IDF warning fire [though IDF says it is not arbitrary]

The Jerusalem Post’s Larry Derfner reported in the weekend Magazine that he was told by a senior Israeli defense official that, so far in 2010, Israeli troops at Gaza border have killed 30 armed Palestinians + five civilians.

According to Derfner’s article, this Israeli official knows of no “mistaken” killing during the past 1.5 years in Gaza. Another Israeli Defense official said, however, that “none … were purely innocent bystanders”.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), however, has reported that “In most cases ‘warning shots’ are fired to force people out of the area, which results in no casualties… [but a] minority of cases have resulted in the death and injury of civilians”.

Derfner mentions the coverage of the killings of two of those five Gazan civilians: on September 12 [the third day of the post-Ramadan Muslim three-day Eid holiday], “an incident near the northern part of the Gaza Strip received more than the usual, meager level of attention: An unarmed 91-year-old Palestinian farm employee, Ibrahim Abu Said, his teenage grandson and another young man were killed by an IDF tank shell a few hundred meters from the border … The army acknowledged up front that the dead suspects had been unarmed, but the investigation exonerated the soldiers who fired the shell. ‘One of the young men had picked up an RPG [shoulder-fired missile launcher] from the ground. He might have been just playing with it, but the tank unit felt threatened. They thought it was being aimed at them, so they fired. Right before that, there had been mortars fired at our positions’, a senior defense official in the northern Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post this week”.

The Derfner article also says that another one among the five civilian — but no, still not mistaken, according to the IDF official — Palestinian deaths in Gaza this year was “a man who was carrying a slingshot at the head of group of protesters headed for the border fence. ‘We fired warning shots and he didn’t leave. Then the soldiers fired with the intent to injure, not kill. They hit him around the knee, and he didn’t get proper treatment over there, and he bled to death’, said the official, noting that the reason demonstrators are not allowed near the fence is that some, often youngsters, use the opportunity to plant explosives”.

No Palestinians were questioned in the IDF investigation, said the official” “the army has no direct contact with Gaza’s population except during brief military incursions, so the Palestinian side, as a rule, is not heard in army inquiries”.

Continue reading Gaza civilians: exposed to arbitrary IDF warning fire [though IDF says it is not arbitrary]

IDF still used lethal ammunition against demonstrators eight year after instructions to ban use for crowd control + HRW said there are strong due process concerns about military trial of Abdullah Abu Rahmeh

The IDF’s Maj. Igor Moiseev, who was the Binyamin Brigade’s operations officer for two years, gave expert testimony during the sentencing phase of the trial of Bil’in activist Abdullah Abu Rahmeh in a military court last week that he was not aware of instructions banning the use of a certain weapon, the Ruger rifle, as a method of crowd control.

This became clear, Haaretz reported, “When Abu-Rahma’s attorney Gabi Laski inquired if Moiseev knew that the military advocate general had ruled that Ruger rifles are not to be used to disperse protests because they are potentially lethal.” Moiseev said he did not know that.

The Ruger rifle uses 0.22″ caliber bullets, which the Israeli military’s Judge Advocate General have classified as live ammunition.

The instructions date from 2001.

Continue reading IDF still used lethal ammunition against demonstrators eight year after instructions to ban use for crowd control + HRW said there are strong due process concerns about military trial of Abdullah Abu Rahmeh

Human Rights Watch on blockade + on Shalit

Human Rights Watch has just sent out an email that started out by criticizing the weak mandate that it said undermines the credibility of the three-member panel appointed by the government to look into the Freedom Flotilla and also at the Israeli naval raid on the Flotilla at sea (in which at least 9 Turkish nationals were killed).

In the statement, Human Rights Watch said that this panel “is not a full commission of inquiry as set out in Israeli law and cannot subpoena witnesses or officials. Under its mandate, the panel must instead rely on requests for documents and ‘summaries of operational investigations’ conducted by the Israeli military itself to determine what military personnel did or were ordered to do during the May 31 interdiction of the flotilla”. And Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, stated that “Israel claims the panel is independent, but insists that it accept the military’s version of events”.

Continue reading Human Rights Watch on blockade + on Shalit

Hamas releases British freelance journalist Paul Martin – UPDATED

Paul Martin, detained nearly 30 days ago at the Gaza City courthouse when he was there to testify on behalf of a Palestinian member of a militant group who is charged with collaboration with Israel, was released today without having been charged.

Hamas said they released Martin to make us happy. We are happy.

That is, happy that he is released — but not that he was detained in the first place.

Martin is the only international detained by Hamas since their rout of Fatah/Preventive Security Forces in Gaza in mid-June 2007.

Hamas said that he was being “deported” as a persona non grata.

Continue reading Hamas releases British freelance journalist Paul Martin – UPDATED

UN Human Rights Council endorses Goldstone report and recommends it to UNGA + says Israeli sanctions on Gaza constitute collective punishment

As we reported yesterday, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva adopted a resolution supporting the report on last winter’s Gaza war that the HRC had commissioned  from a team lead by South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone.

The vote was 25 in favor, 11 against, and 6 abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia;

Against: Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Ukraine, United States of America.

Abstaining: Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Uruguay.

These results are posted on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights here.

The resolution endorsed the recommendations in the Goldstone report, and recommended that the UN General Assembly “consider” the report in its current session (which lasts until late December, or eventually until next September). It also said that the Israeli restrictions on Gaza — which the HRC resolution says is occupied — is a “siege” that “constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians”.

The resolution stresses “that the right to life constitutes the most fundamental of all human rights“, and recognizes that “the Israeli siege imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, including its closure of border crossings and the cutting of the supply of fuel, food and medicine, constitutes collective punishment of Palestinian civilians and leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences“.

Continue reading UN Human Rights Council endorses Goldstone report and recommends it to UNGA + says Israeli sanctions on Gaza constitute collective punishment

Human Rights Watch Report denounces Israeli military's use of drones that killed civilians in Gaza

Yes, it is different this time. There is much more sustained international criticism than ever before of how the Israeli military operated during its 22-day Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (27 December – 18 January).

Human Rights Watch has just released another in its series of investigations into the Israeli military operation, entitled: “Precisely Wrong – Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli Drone-Launched Missiles”. It can be viewed in full here

The drones (also know as Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) are “one of the most precise weapons in Israel’s arsenal” — yet during Operation Cast Lead drones “killed civilians who were not taking part in hostilities and were far from any fighting”, Human Rights Watch said.

As a result, Human Rights Watch concluded that “Israeli forces failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that these targets were combatants, as required by the laws of war, or that they failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians”.

Gazans call the drones “zanana” because of the constant buzzing noise they make when hovering overhead. They also reportedly fly over the West Bank, and interfere with television reception when they do.

Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report, said that “When used properly, drones and their precision missiles can help a military minimize civilian casualties … But drones are only as good at sparing civilians as the people who command and operate them.”

“Drone operators can clearly see their targets on the ground and also divert their missiles after launch … Given these capabilities, Israel needs to explain why these civilian deaths took place.”

Human Rights Watch said that “One Israeli drone operator who flew missions in Gaza during the recent fighting told an Israeli military journal that he was able to detect clothing colors, a large radio, and a weapon … Drones carry an array of advanced sensors, often combining radars, electro-optical cameras, infrared cameras, and lasers. These sensors can provide a clear image in real time of individuals on the ground during day and night, with the ability to distinguish between children and adults … The missile launched from a drone carries its own cameras that allow the operator to observe the target from the moment of firing to impact. If doubts arise about a target, the drone operator can redirect the weapon elsewhere”.

Given all these capabilities, the drone attacks in Gaza appear to have been, according to Human Rights Watch, “in violation of the laws of war”.

Human Rights Watch added that “The Israel Defense Forces turned down repeated Human Rights Watch requests for a meeting and did not respond to questions submitted in writing*.

“Precisely Wrong”, the new 39-page report from HRW, is “based on field research in Gaza, where Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed victims and witnesses, examined attack sites, collected missile debris for testing, and reviewed medical records”. The organization said it examined in detail six incidents resulting in 29 civilian deaths (among them 8 children). There were a reported total of 42 drone attacks that killed 87 civilian.

“In the six cases documented in the report, Human Rights Watch found no evidence that Palestinian fighters were present in the immediate area of the attack at the time. None of the civilians who were killed were moving quickly or fleeing the area, so the drone operators would have had time to determine whether they were observing civilians or combatants, and to hold fire if they were unable to tell the difference. In three of the cases, drones fired missiles at children playing on rooftops in residential neighborhoods, far from any ground fighting at the time. Human Rights Watch found no evidence to suggest that the children were acting as spotters, relaying Israeli troop locations, or trying to launch a rocket from the roof”.

In addition, “On December 27, 2008, the first day of the Israeli offensive called “Operation Cast Lead,” a drone-launched missile hit a group of university students as they waited for a bus on a crowded residential street in central Gaza City, killing 12 civilians. The Israeli military has failed to explain why it targeted the group on a crowded downtown street with no known military activity in the area at the time. On December 29, the Israeli military struck a truck that it said was transporting Grad rockets, killing nine civilians. The military released video footage here of the attack to support its case, but the video raises serious doubts that the target constituted a military objective – doubts that should have guided the drone operator to hold fire. The alleged rockets, the military later admitted, proved to be oxygen canisters”.

Human Rights Watch said “it found that Israeli forces failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that these targets were combatants, as required by the laws of war, or that they failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Israel has failed to conduct credible investigations into its actions during Operation Cast Lead. On April 22, the military released the results of an internal investigation, which concluded that its forces ‘operated in accordance with international law’ throughout the fighting and that ‘a very small number’ of ‘unavoidable’ incidents occurred due to ‘intelligence or operational errors’.

But, Human Rights Watch noted, “Individuals who have committed serious violations of the laws of war with criminal intent – that is, intentionally or recklessly – are responsible for war crimes”.

The organization called on Israel to release its recorded video footage and other documentation of its attacks in which civilians were wounded or killed: “The drones deployed by the Israeli military – the Israeli-produced Hermes and Heron drones – have video-recording devices so that everything viewed by the operator is recorded. Every Israeli drone missile strike during Operation Cast Lead would therefore be registered on video”

The Israeli military issued a response on Tuesday evening, saying that “The credibility of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report is questionable, given that it is based on anonymous Palestinian sources, who lack credibility, whose knowledge of military issues is doubtful, and on the other hand are clearly not impartial observers, and form part of the Gazan propaganda system”.

The Israeli military statement added that: “It is surprising that HRW chose to ignore the extensive efforts made by the IDF to avoid causing harm to non-combatants, and chose to base its report entirely on reports by Palestinian witnesses. The actions taken by the IDF in general, and in particular those taken during Operation Cast Lead, conform to international law, as do the weapons and munitions used by the IDF. Furthermore, when using these weapons the IDF strictly adheres to the principles of distinction and proportionality. During operation Cast Lead the IDF made use of advanced technology, tactics and weapon systems which minimized the risk to non-combatants and civilian property. This was done while confronting terrorists, who intentionally operated from within the Gaza Strip’s densely populated areas and used civilians as human shields. The IDF acted exclusively against military targets, and strived to minimize the harm caused to civilian population, at times at the expense of its own military interests.  The IDF is committed to honoring its obligations under international humanitarian law and is examining allegations that it breached these obligations during Operation Cast Lead. As a result, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, IDF Chief of Staff, appointed five investigative teams, each headed by an officer of the rank of Colonel, to thoroughly examine several issues, including claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed which were raised by NGOs and international human rights organizations, including HRW as well as Israeli and international media outlets. A summary of the results of these investigations were released by the IDF, and showed that, as a rule, the IDF’s actions during the operation conformed with international law, and that the IDF maintained high professional and moral standards. In addition the investigations showed that in all of the incidents which were examined, the IDF did not directly target non-combatants. In those incidents where IDF activity did cause injury to non-combatants, it was not as the result of an intentional strike on those non-combatants, but rather the unfortunate result of circumstances which were beyond the control of the IDF forces involved, or the result of an unexpected operational failure. As noted, many of the incidents resulted from the deplorable and intentional use that Hamas made of civilians as ‘cover’, blending with the civilian population and using civilian buildings and facilities while launching terror attacks against Israel”.

At a recent conference organized in Jerusalem by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) to evaluate the Gaza war, the world-class Israeli international law expert Professor Yoram Dinstein, the author of War, Aggression, and Self-Defence and The Conduct of Hostilities Under the Law of International Armed Conflict as well as of The International Law of Belligerent Occupation, and a former President of Tel Aviv University and head of the law school who still lectures there as Professor Emeritus, said that “the law of armed conflict is a very difficult field … and, with international humanitarian law, often issues very harsh criteria.  Can you drop a bomb of half a ton on one Hamas activist even tough civilians are in the building?  Is it allowed or not?  This is debated.  But Israel is making a mistake in not going to this forum.  We cannot be satisfied with five military investigatîve teams conducting inquiries [into various aspects of Operation Cast Lead], and then concluding that ‘Israel has the most moral army in the world’.  How is this measured?  How do you measure it?  We indict soldiers for looting — we should also do this if there is data indicating that maybe a war crime was committed.  Maybe they would be acquitted in the end, but we cannot issue five repourts that say at the wnd we are the best military in the world — and then say the world [when it is sceptical] is anti-semitic, though maybe it is, but we are losing the public relations battle”, Dinsein added.

HRW details White Phosphorus attacks by IDF on UNRWA compound and UNRWA school

The most striking detail about the IDF attack with white phosphorus on the main UNRWA compound in Gaza City — the day UNSG BAN Ki-Moon arrived in the region — was how long it lasted.

Some three hours.

During which time, UNRWA staff and officials were making frantic phone calls to various contacts in the IDF, who were unable to quickly bring the attack to a halt.

A former U.S. Army officer now working with UNRWA told the HRW researchers, as they recounted in their just-released report, “Rain of Fire”, on the Israeli use of white phosphorus during the December-January Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, that the IDF seemed “to be ‘walking’ the artillery fire across the area – firing shells along an arc at evenly spaced intervals”.
Continue reading HRW details White Phosphorus attacks by IDF on UNRWA compound and UNRWA school

White Phosphorus was only one part of the horror of war during 22 days in Gaza

The White Phosphorus attacks recounted by Human Rights Watch in its just-released report, “Rain of Fire”, were only part of horrors of war inflicted upon civilians in Gaza during the 22-day IDF Operation Cast Lead, 27 December to 18 January.

Khuza’a village, east of Khan Younis, and not far from the Israeli border, was attacked intermittently for over three days by White Phosphorus, from 10 to 13 January. Then, on the 13th of January, as their homes were collapsing above their heads, women and children who were waving white flags while trying to flee were shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

The HRW report said that “the village of Khuza’a is one of the closest Palestinian residential areas to Israel, in sight of IDF watchtowers. Open fields separate it from the armistice line. In a series of ground incursions between January 11 and 13, Israeli forces engaged Palestinian fighters, apparently killing three of them. At the same time, local officials said, 16 civilians died and dozens more were wounded, many by smoke inhalation from the extensive use of white phosphorus…
Continue reading White Phosphorus was only one part of the horror of war during 22 days in Gaza