Remnants of an Israeli white phosphorus shell, identified by the marking on the outer casing — M825A1 — have been found in the village of Sheikh Ajilin in western Gaza.
Witnesses in Gaza said that the shell was fired on January 9 and was taken indoors as evidence. They recalled seeing thick smoke and smelling a strong odour in keeping with the garlic-like smell associated with white phosphorus.
Hebrew writing on the shell casing reads "exploding smoke" — the term the Israeli army uses for white phosphorus. Doctors who examined the shell said that it appeared to include phosphorus residue.
Residents said that they suffered burns on their feet when they walked where the shelling had taken place.
A suspected phosphorus victim was taken from Gaza across the border into Egypt yesterday. Abdul Rahman Shaer, 16, was transferred to an Egyptian hospital from Rafah. He was suffering from severe chemical burns to his face and body. Paramedics from Gaza said that doctors at the hospital were sure the chemical agent was phosphorus.
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The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination.
Human Rights organisations have criticised the use of it in Gaza, saying that it was impossible to avoid exposing civilians to the chemical because Gaza is densely populated.
Meanwhile, Israeli human rights groups are calling for an investigation as to whether human rights violations have occurred in the war on Gaza, and whether they constitute war crimes:
Nine Israeli human rights groups called on Wednesday for an investigation into whether Israeli officials had committed war crimes in Gaza since tens of thousands of civilians there have nowhere to flee, the health system has collapsed, many are without electricity and running water, and some are beyond the reach of rescue teams.
"This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes," the groups said in their first news conference on the 19-day-old war.
And Britain may refer Israel's action to the International Court of Justice for prosecution as war crimes:
In its upcoming meeting, the UN General Assembly is expected to discuss whether to seek advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice about filing a complaint against Israel, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
According to the British daily, a Foreign Office source has confirmed reports that the UK government, under pressure from prominent law experts, may consider supporting calls for a reference to the ICJ.
"It's definitely on the table... We have already called for an investigation and are looking at all evidence and allegations," the source told The Guardian.
The world's leading international lawyers have sent an open letter to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, calling for an end to Israel's human right violations in the Gaza Strip.
"The United Kingdom government ... has a duty under international law to exert its influence to stop violations of international humanitarian law in the current conflict," reads the letter.
According to the lawyers, Israel has violated international humanitarian law by directly targeting civilians and failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants.
The special UN rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, has also criticized Israel for committing "crimes against humanity".
Falk, who himself is Jewish, has called on the International Criminal Court to determine whether Israeli leaders and military commanders "should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law".