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The Guardian 28 January, 2009

Attack on
UN aid headquarters condemned


Israel’s attack on the United Nations relief headquarters in Gaza and its use of toxic white phosphorus among civilians are has drawn wide condemnation and increasing demands for an immediate cease-fire. Human rights groups say the Israeli actions violate international law.

The headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), housing numerous refugees and food and other relief supplies, was left in flames after an Israeli artillery attack.

The UK Times reported that shells hitting the UN compound in Gaza City contained white phosphorus, an incendiary that in 1980 was banned internationally for use as a weapon in civilian areas. Neither the US nor Israel signed onto that ban.

The Israeli military denied using white phosphorus in Gaza, but the Times said its own investigation "revealed that dozens of Palestinians in Gaza have sustained serious injuries from the substance, which burns at extremely high temperatures."

Humanitarian organisations including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch said that they were "certain" that Israel was using white phosphorus shells in Gaza. Human rights workers said that the use of phosphorus in densely populated Gaza City could constitute a war crime.

UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness strongly rejected Israeli claim that Hamas fighters were in the compound. He pointed to a series of earlier Israeli attacks on UN relief facilities and personnel for which Israel made similar claims. "Their credibility is hanging in rags," he said.

People’s Weekly World

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