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Israel will check use of phosphorous shells

Israel's military said it will investigate charges that its forces used phosphorous shells in a way that burned civilians during its invasion of Gaza, which human rights groups say should be considered a war crime.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 21:26 IST

Israel's military said it will investigate charges that its forces used phosphorous shells in a way that burned civilians during its invasion of Gaza, which human rights groups say should be considered a war crime.

Palestinian witnesses, victims and doctors said they were burned, some severely, when Israeli soldiers fired phosphorous shells at houses. On January 10, Palestinian doctors said one woman was killed and more than 100 villagers wounded by burns and gas inhalation when Israeli forces fired white phosphorous shells at a row of houses in Khouza, a village in southern Gaza near the Israeli border.

Although the use of phosphorous weapons to mask forces is permitted by international law, Amnesty International has accused Israel of committing a war crime by using it in densely populated areas.

Because of the scope of destruction and the number of deaths and injuries during Israel's offensive, several groups have announced plans to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.

Illegal use of white phosphorous could become a centerpiece, because it is a specific type of activity that can be graphically documented.

Amnesty International issued a report Monday about a shelling in a residential area of Gaza City, concluding that Israel used the potentially deadly weapon improperly.

"The Israeli army used white phosphorus, a weapon with a highly incendiary effect, in densely populated civilian residential areas of Gaza City, according to indisputable evidence," the report said.