1) Israeli forces seize Gaza aid ship Al Jazeera
2) Gazan children denied treatment abroad Jonathan Cook
3) Gaza Burn Victims Exhibit Signs Of White Phosphorous Wounds By Amira Hass
4) Army Won’t Confirm Or Deny Sale Of Arsenal’s Phosphorous To Israel By Amy Riggin
1) Israeli Forces Seize Gaza Aid Ship
The Israeli navy has captured and diverted a ship from Lebanon carrying more than 60 tonnes of aid to the Gaza Strip.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent aboard the Al-Ikhwa (The Brotherhood) ship said the navy first opened fire, then five Israeli soldiers boarded the ship, beating and threatening the passengers.
“They are pointing guns against us – they are kicking us and beating us. They are threatening our lives,” Al Jazeera’s Salam Khoder said.
Communications with the ship broke off shortly thereafter.
According to the owner of the vessel, the Israelis destroyed ts communication equipment and confiscated the phones of those on board.
The Israeli military told Al Jazeera it had captured the Lebanese vessel and taken it to Ashdod, where authorities were examining its cargo. The passengers and crew, meanwhile, were being questioned by police.
In a statement, the Israeli military said it had warned the ship on Wednesday night against entering Gaza’s coastal waters.
“During today’s morning hours, the cargo ship changed its bearing, and began heading towards the Gaza Strip …. disregarding all warnings made,” it said.
Al-Ikhwa, which originally set sail from Cyprus, left the Lebanese port city of Tripoli on Tuesday.
Maan Bashour, an aid co-ordinator for the group End the Blockade of Gaza, said the ship was carrying medical equipment, food supplies and books, toys and milk for small children.
“This ship was searched in Cyprus and in Lebanon,” Bashour told Al Jazeera in Beirut, Lebanon. ”And we were very eager to let it be searched by Lebanese and Cypriot authorities in order that there be no reason for the Israelis to prevent it from going to Gaza.”
Foud Siniora, Lebanon’s president, condemned the attack on Al-Ikhwa, emphasising that it was on a humanitarian mission to Gaza.
“It is no surprise for Israel to perpetrate such an action as it has been accustomed to ignoring all international resolutions and values,” he said during a speech in Beirut.
“I made a number of necessary phone calls with international parties in order to exert pressures on Israel which is violating laws. I hold Israel responsible for the safety of the ship and passengers.”
2) Gazan Children Denied Treatment Abroad
Jonathan Cook, Foreign Correspondent January 28. 2009
Amira Ghirim, 15, lies in bed at Shifa hospital in Gaza. Naaman Omar for The National
JERUSALEM // For four days running, an ambulance has driven 15-year-old Amira Ghirim from Shifa Hospital in Gaza to the Rafah border in the hope that she will be allowed to cross into Egypt and then on to France, where she has been promised emergency surgery.
Amira’s left arm and thigh were crushed and her internal organs damaged by falling rubble when a shell hit her home in the Tel al Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City in the final days of Israel’s offensive. The attack killed her father, brother and sister, leaving her an orphan.
But, despite her urgent need for surgery, Amira has been turned away at the border each time, said her aunt, Mona Ghirim. “Each morning we arrived at the crossing and the Egyptian soldiers cursed us and told us to go away.”
Ms Ghirim said Amira’s condition has been deteriorating because of the long periods out of hospital. Yesterday, after hearing news that the border would remain shut, they decided to abandon the journey. “She is very ill and these futile trips are not helping.”
Amira is one of four children who have been offered potentially life-saving surgery by a team of doctors in France. But she and the other children appear to be victims of a bureaucratic wrangle involving the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Egypt.
Mohammed Salem, the head of a medical group based in France known as Pal Med, was among the doctors accompanying the children through the crossing last Friday. He said the doctors had been allowed through, but the ambulances carrying the children were blocked. When the doctors tried to return, they were denied entry into Gaza.
“We do not know why the children were refused,” he said. “We had organised all the relevant papers and documents. We were told once we passed through Rafah that the ambulance carrying the children would be allowed to follow.”
The reason appears to be a sudden change of policy by the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah, which issued a statement the day before the four children tried to leave Gaza saying that it believed there was “no more reason to refer any more children for treatment abroad”.
Nearly 1,300 Palestinians were killed and a further 5,300 injured during Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza.
In the days immediately after Israel’s declaration of a ceasefire on Jan 18, hundreds of seriously wounded Gazans were transferred through the Rafah crossing into Egypt. Many are being treated in Egyptian hospitals, and others have been sent abroad.
But in recent cases, Egyptian officials appear to have preferred to abide by the wishes of the Palestinian health ministry than create diplomatic friction.
Two of the four children, Hazem Abu Odeh, 12, and Iman Khadum, nine, need surgery to stop bleeding from their kidneys.
The fourth, Alla Abu Dagan, 16, suffered multiple fractures and abdominal wounds from a shell blast.
A diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Amira and the other children had probably been caught in a political row resulting from the split between the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, and the Hamas government in Gaza.
“The PA wants to show it is exercising authority in Gaza, too. It is using its control over the international medical aid reaching Gaza as a way to show it is in charge and making things happen,” the source said.
The Palestinian health ministry was unavailable for comment.
Ms Ghirim said her niece had been through a terrible trauma. “After the house was shelled, she crawled out of the building to get help, but found the street deserted. She slept out in the open and told me she could hear the voices of soldiers speaking Hebrew all night.
“In the morning she crawled 500 metres to another house to hide. She stayed there until she was eventually found when the owner returned home. He said she was in a shocking condition, covered in blood and dust.”
International medical organisations have been carrying out their own assessments of conditions inside Gaza over the past few days. The World Health Organization is due to issue a report in the coming days.
A team of 12 Israeli Arab doctors from Physicians for Human Rights returned on Sunday. They warned that Gaza’s health care system had been stretched to its very limits and that wounded patients were at risk of dying.
Riyad Haddad, a surgeon at the Carmiel Medical Centre in Haifa, said: “There has been a lot of medical aid, but the treatment doctors are able to offer has been severely compromised by Gaza’s many months of being cut off from the rest of the world.”
He said technicians lacked training to operate modern hospital equipment, doctors had not attended medical seminars on the latest developments in their fields, and there was a severe shortage of trained nursing teams.
He also said that Gaza lacked the psychologists needed to deal with the vast scale of mental trauma inflicted on the population.
Of the thousands of injured, more than 600 would be left with permanent disabilities, he said. “Gaza badly needs proper rehabilitation centres to cope with that number of disabled.”
Dr Haddad said many of Gaza’s doctors he spoke with had reported unusual and difficult-to-treat injuries that appeared to be the result of Israel using experimental weapons during the offensive.
He also warned that unexploded ordnance was already claiming the lives of children, who were playing with munitions lying among the rubble. Last weekend the International Committee of the Red Cross said unexploded ordnance posed a “major new danger” to the civilian population.
Gaza may yet face major epidemics such as cholera that could claim many more lives, Dr Haddad said. “Although most of the bodies have been recovered from the rubble, you can see and smell that there are dead animals – sheep, goats, dogs and cats – everywhere.”
3) Gaza Burn Victims Exhibit Signs Of White Phosphorous Wounds
By Amira Hass
February 5, 2009
GAZA — Palestinian doctors at a number of hospitals in the Gaza Strip informed foreign medical experts allowed into the area over the past two weeks that they were witnessing an unexpected deterioration in the condition of their burn victims.
They described the same phenomenon: Two weeks after being injured, the burn victims seemed to be getting worse, requiring skin grafts abroad.
In other instances, internal tissue was also destroyed. Some of the wounded died a week to 10 days after being injured, even though they had not appeared to suffer extensive injuries. The doctors only later discovered that their liver and kidneys had been affected. But at this point, it was already too late to save many of the wounded.
The precise number of those who suffered burn wounds and then died is still uncertain.
Doctors take care to note that until the necessary laboratory work is done, they will be unable to determine with certainty if the burns were caused by the white phosphorus bombs the IDF dropped during its ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
They are also unable to state with certainty whether the patients’ deterioration and the spread of infection stemmed directly from being hit with the phosphorus mortars.
However researchers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who have spent the past three weeks in the Gaza Strip, have concluded with certainty that the white phosphorus bombs struck residential neighborhoods.
The initial treatment of the burns, before the doctors in the Gaza Strip had realized that they were caused by white phosphorus, was deemed useless.
“We had never seen phosphorus burns before,” a veteran foreign surgeon told *Haaretz*. “In the [medical] literature, what is known about these burns is what was done as experiments, in lab conditions, or in military bases, perhaps as the result of accidents.”
However, three Israeli documents *Haaretz* received, which were written during Operation Lead Cast, describe the sort of burns caused by white phosphorus and match the descriptions of the medical personnel in the Gaza Strip. The documents were prepared by the office of the IDF chief medical officer, the Medical Field Operations HQ and Magen David Adom.
A document bearing the signature of Dr. Zvi Feinberg, chief of medicine at Magen David Adom, and Rami Miller, a senior paramedic, writes that “white phosphorus contained in a bomb or a missile ignites when it comes into contact with oxygen . . . the phosphorus that comes into contact with skin causes serious and deep burns.”
Another document, this one signed by Dr. Gil Hirschorn, who is also a colonel in the army and head of trauma in the office of the IDF’s chief medical officer, states: “During Operation Cast Lead, intelligence was received that Hamas was making use of an ordinance that contains phosphorus. Phosphorus is a poisonous substance, white-yellowish, similar to wax, that is used in mortar shells and hand grenades.
“When the phosphorus comes in contact with living tissue it causes its damage by ‘eating’ away at it. Characteristics of a phosphorus wound are: chemical burns accompanied by extreme pain, damage to tissue . . . the phosphorus may seep into the body and damage internal organs. In the long run, kidney failure, and the spread of infection are characteristic . . . In conclusion: a wound by an ordinance containing explosive phosphorus is inherently dangerous and has the potential to cause serious damage to tissue.”
A document entitled “Exposure to White Phosphorus,” prepared by Medical Field Operations HQ and sent from the Health Ministry notes that “most of the data on phosphorus wounds stems from animal testing and accidents. Exposure to white phosphorus is highly poisonous, according to many lab experiments. Burns covering a small area of the body, 12-15 percent in lab animals and less than 10 percent in humans, may be lethal as a result of its effects, mostly on the liver, heart, and kidneys.”
*Haaretz* visited a number of homes in the Gaza Strip that show clear signs of being hit by phosphorus shells. At least one of the children hurt in such an attack will require a skin graft abroad. In another instance, four children and the father died as a result of a white phosphorus bombing.
4) Army Won’t Confirm Or Deny Sale Of Arsenal’s Phosphorous To Israel
By Amy Riggin
Commercial (Pine Bluff, Arkansas) January 27, 2009
Various reports in the national and international media have brought attention to the Pine Bluff Arsenal’s production of white phosphorous, which, according to various sources, has been used by Israeli forces in Gaza.
When asked to verify whether the U.S. has sold locally produced white phosphorous to the Israeli government, arsenal spokeswoman Cheryl Avery referred questions to Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, spokesman for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.
“We do not release sensitive information on foreign military sales,” Ryder stated in an e-mail Friday to the *Commercial*. “This includes FMS [foreign military sales] and delivery data that may reveal information about the order of battle and capabilities of a friendly nation.”
Ryder said all “releasable” information on foreign sales is available from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s Web site, http://www.dsca.mil. He neither confirmed nor denied that the white phosphorous came from the arsenal.
“All arms transfers are strictly regulated and are done in the interest of peace and broader international security,” he stated. “These sales help peaceful nations meet their legitimate needs of self defense.
“We fully support Israel’s right to defend itself. We have a long-standing defense relationship with Israel, as well as many other nations in the region.”
A brief review of arms sales notifications revealed that billions of dollars worth of military weapons and equipment had been sold to Israel over the past few years. Those sales included a variety of items, from an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft to GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs to Harpoon and Sidewinder missiles.
However, a search for “white phosphorous” yielded nothing except a chapter from a document dated Oct. 3, 2003, titled “Foreign Military Sales Program — General Information.” Contained in that chapter is language stating “. . . and requests must also contain assurance from the host Government that white phosphorous munitions are used only for purposes such as signaling and smoke screening.”
In a Jan. 6 statement to the *Commercial*, Col. Bill Barnett, arsenal commander, described the arsenal as “a world leader in the design, manufacture, and refurbishment of smoke, riot control, and incendiary munitions, as well as chemical/biological defense operations items.” He said the arsenal produces a “variety of smoke, illuminating, and non-lethal munitions to include white phosphorous filled munitions ranging from 60 mm to 175 mm, red phosphorous [such as smoke screening grenades], colored smoke munitions, etc.”
In June 2005, a fire at the arsenal destroyed a warehouse containing 7,500 canisters of white phosphorous. Arsenal officials determined that the fire was caused by a leaking canister. In a June 8, 2005, interview with the *Commercial*, spokeswoman Raini Brunson said the arsenal is the Army’s sole producer of white phosphorous ammunition in the Western Hemisphere.
Use As A Weapon
Media reports have included interviews from patients and hospital officials in Gaza who say the white phosphorous is being used as a weapon. A Jan. 22 New York Times article featured an interview with a Gaza family, the only surviving member claiming that her home was hit by an Israeli white phosphorous shell that burned the rest of her family to death and injured her severely.
Human rights organizations have been up in arms over the claims because targeting civilians with white phosphorous is banned by an international convention. The Israeli government has maintained that it was used legally.
British-based newspaper the *Times* reported in a Jan. 12 article that white phosphorous shells being fired by Israelis were indeed from the arsenal, as indicated by the lot number that was visible in a photograph. “The lot number . . . indicates that the shells being used by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] were assembled in September 1991 at Pine Bluff Arsenal in America, where all U.S. white phosphorous munitions are reportedly made,” the report stated. The *Times* reported that Chamberlain Manufacturing, General Dynamics, and Ordnance & Tactical Systems were the contractors.
Al Jazeera English reporter Mike Kirsch even made the trip to White Hall to talk to the locals. His report, which can be found at english.aljazeera.net, focuses on residents’ reaction to local white phosphorous production, many of whom were unaware that it is even produced at the arsenal.
White Hall Mayor James “Jitters” Morgan said in an interview Friday that Kirsch misrepresented himself in order to obtain an interview with Morgan. Morgan said Kirsch said he was sent by the arsenal. In the video, arsenal officials are filmed turning him away.
“It upsets me that he lied to me to get to talk to me to begin with,” Morgan said. “If they’ve got a complaint about the Pine Bluff Arsenal making white phosphorous, they need to take it up with the president of the United States, not the mayor of the city of White Hall.”
Morgan said he, like many residents, never thought about the possibility of munitions made locally being used in Gaza.
“The thought has never entered my mind,” Morgan said. “I feel bad for anybody who gets hurt . . . But if I got hit by a Chevrolet crossing the street, I wouldn’t sue the Chevrolet people. “The city of White Hall is behind the Arsenal 100 percent. We trust the Arsenal and we trust the U.S. government.”