Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Israel Used White Phosphorus –Made in USA–on Gazans

Posted in war crimes by allisonkilkenny on February 24, 2009

Note from Allison: This is made all the more perverse by the fact that the US is set to give $900 million in aid to Gaza, while also giving $30+billion in aid to Israel. We’re giving aid to one side in order to rebuild the shit that gone blown up by the other side, who we’re arming. And no one sees anything devious or hypocritical about any of this?

Guardian

Relatives mourn a Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, last month. (Eyad Baba/AP)

Relatives mourn a Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, last month. (Eyad Baba/AP)

Detailed evidence has emerged of Israel‘s extensive use of US-made weaponry during its war in Gaza last month, including white phosphorus artillery shells, 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles.

In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel.

The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.

The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.

“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director. “To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.”

For their part, Palestinian militants in Gaza were arming themselves with “unsophisticated weapons” including rockets made in Russia, Iran and China and bought from “clandestine sources”, it said. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 4,000 injured during the three-week conflict. On the Israeli side 13 were killed, including three civilians. Amnesty said Israel’s armed forces carried out “direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate”. The Israeli military declined to comment yesterday.

Palestinian militants also fired “indiscriminate rockets” at civilians, Amnesty said. It called for an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.

Amnesty researchers in Gaza found several weapon fragments after the fighting. One came from a 500lb (227kg) Mark-82 fin guided bomb, which had markings indicating parts were made by the US company Raytheon. They also found fragments of US-made white phosphorus artillery shells, marked M825 A1.

On 15 January, several white phosphorus shells fired by the Israeli military hit the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City, destroying medicine, food and aid. One fragment found at the scene had markings indicating it was made by the Pine Bluff Arsenal, based in Arkansas, in October 1991.

The human rights group said the Israeli military had used white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, which it said was an indiscriminate form of attack and a war crime. Its researchers found white phosphorus still burning in residential areas days after the ceasefire.

At the scene of an Israeli attack that killed three Palestinian paramedics and a boy in Gaza City on 4 January, Amnesty found fragments of an AGM114 Hellfire missile, made by Hellfire Systems of Orlando, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The missile is often fired from Apache helicopters.

Amnesty said it also found evidence of a new type of missile, apparently fired from unmanned drones, which exploded into many pieces of shrapnel that were “tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2 and 4mm square in size”.

“They appear designed to cause maximum injury,” Amnesty said. Many civilians were killed by this weapon, including several children, it said.

Rockets fired by Palestinian militants were either 122mm Grad missiles or short-range Qassam rockets, a locally made, improvised artillery weapon. Warheads were either smuggled in or made from fertiliser.

The arsenal of weapons was on a “very small scale compared to Israel”, it said, adding that the scale of rocket arsenal deployed by Hizbullah in the 2006 Lebanese war was “beyond the reach of Palestinian militant groups”.

Armed for war

Israelis Missiles launched from helicopters and unmanned drones, including 20mm cannon and Hellfire missiles. Larger laser-guided and other bombs dropped by F-16 warplanes. Extensive use of US-made 155mm white phosphorus artillery shells and Israeli-made 155mm illuminating shells that eject phosphorus canisters by parachute. Several deaths caused by flechettes, 4cm-long metal darts packed into 120mm tank shells, and fragments of US-made 120mm tank shells.

Palestinians Militants fired rockets into southern Israel including 122mm Grad rockets of either Russian, Chinese or Iranian manufacture, and smaller, improvised Qassam rockets often made inside Gaza and usually holding 5kg of explosives and shrapnel.

Greece Refuses to Host US Weapons Shipment to Israel

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 15, 2009

Democracy Now/GuardianUK/Reuters

greek-flagMeanwhile, the US has been forced to cancel a weapons shipment to Israel after the Greek government refused to allow it to pass through its ports. The US says it will seek an alternative site.

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guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 January 2009

The Pentagon has suspended the delivery of a shipload of munitions to Israel after international concern that it could be used by Israeli forces in Gaza.

The German-owned cargo vessel, Wehr Elbe, under charter by the US Military Sea lift Command, is currently in Greek waters with its transponder tracking turned off to prevent its location being identified.

Amnesty International has written to the foreign secretary, David Miliband, asking him to make “urgent approaches to the US, German and Greek governments to prevent this, or any pending or future shipments of weaponry until it can be verified that they will not be transferred to the Israeli Defence Forces or other parties to the conflict in Gaza.

“We urge you to ensure that no EU member state will allow their ports or other facilities to be used to transit these or any other weapons to any of the parties to this conflict.”

The Wehr Elbe, owned by the Hamburg company Oskar Wehr, arrived outside the Greek port of Astakos on 1 January, where it was due to transfer its 1,000 containers to another vessel for delivery to Ashdod in Israel.

But after a two week stand-off, amid local protests in Greece, it moved out into the Mediterranean two days ago and disappeared off tracking websites.

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the contract for the munitions had been arranged last summer and approved in October. He said the munitions were due to be delivered to a US pre-positioning depot in Israel for US forces. But he added: “If the government of Israel requests munitions they can do so direct to the US government under the Foreign Military Sales programme.”

He said the ship’s journey had been delayed due to “safety concerns” about unloading the cargo at Ashdod and that other arrangements were being made by the Military Sealift Command’s European office in Naples.

The letter to Miliband, from Amnesty’s director, Kate Allen, calls “for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups until effective mechanisms are in place to ensure that weapons and munitions and other military equipment will not be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director, Malcolm Smart, said: “The last thing that is needed now is more weapons and munitions in the region, which is awash with arms that are being used in a manner which contravenes international law and is having a devastating effect on the civilian population in Gaza.”

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Reuters

ATHENS/WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Greece’s opposition accused the ruling conservatives on Tuesday of allowing U.S. arms shipments to Israel via a Greek port for over a year, despite the government’s denials.

The U.S. military said on Monday it cancelled the shipment of 325 containers of ammunition from the western Greek port of Astakos to a U.S. stockpile in Israel, citing safety concerns at the Israeli port of destination due to the conflict in Gaza.

However, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday the transport had been cancelled at the request of the Greek government. Reports of the shipment had provoked a media outcry in Greece, where Israel’s 18-day-old offensive in Gaza is deeply unpopular.

“I think the Greek government has some issue with the offloading of some of that shipment in their country and we are finding alternative means of getting that entire shipment to its proper destination in Israel,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

He said the decision to replenish the stockpile, which can be accessed by Israel with U.S. permission, had been taken long before the outbreak of the Gaza conflict. Morrell said he did not know if Israel currently had access to the weapons cache.

Greece’s opposition PASOK party submitted questions to parliament asking whether U.S. arms shipments to Israel via Astakos, which it said dated back to September 2007, had been approved by the government.

“Did the foreign ministry and other relevant ministries approve these shipments or was Greek and international law replaced by practices that weaken the sovereignty of this country?” read the PASOK statement.

Greece’s Communist party and a left-wing coalition have called demonstrations at Astakos for Wednesday and Thursday.

PASOK said the alleged shipments were organised by a Greek-based detachment of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command with the permission of Greek authorities. It called for all the related documentation to be made public.

Greece’s ruling New Democracy party has said in recent days it has not allowed supplies to the Israeli army to pass through Greece. It went further on Tuesday by saying it had not given permission for any U.S. arms shipments bound for Israel.

“The Greek side didn’t allow such a transport,” said government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, asked about the latest cargo. A shipping tender issued on Dec. 31 by the U.S. military, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, showed the destination of the cargo was the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry say 971 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive which Israel launched on Dec. 27 with the stated aim of ending militant rocket fire from Gaza. On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and three civilians hit by Hamas rockets have died. (Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou in Athens and Stefano Ambrogi in London, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

(VIDEO) Israel Hits UN Headquarters with White Phosphorous Shells

Posted in politics by allisonkilkenny on January 15, 2009

Guardian UK

un-logo-copyThe headquarters of the UN refugee agency was on fire today after coming under attack as Israeli forces pushed deeper into Gaza City, unleashing the heaviest shelling of densely packed neighbourhoods since the military operation began nearly three weeks ago.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, expressed “strong protest and outrage” and demanded an investigation into why there was an attack on the compound of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a well-known location in Gaza marked with blue UN flags. The number of casualties in the Gaza Strip, now 1,055 according to local UN officials, had “reached an unbearable point”, Ban added.

As an Israeli envoy arrived in Cairo to take part in Egyptian-brokered talks on a possible ceasefire, the UN chief said there was no reason why the fighting could not stop immediately. “I believe that elements are in place for the violence to end now,” he said in Tel Aviv, the latest stop on his peace mission.

Gordon Brown described the shelling of the UN compound as “indefensible” and “unacceptable” and called for a ceasefire.

“The UN’s mission in Gaza is purely humanitarian, bringing relief to civilians suffering in appalling conditions as a result of the ongoing military action and restrictions on food and medical supplies entering Gaza,” the prime minister said. “UN staff are working on behalf of the international community – any attack on them is unacceptable, as Israel has acknowledged.”

A warehouse containing tonnes of relief supplies was ablaze after the compound was hit by what a UNRWA spokesman, Chris Gunness, said appeared to be three white phosphorous shells.

Three people were reported to be injured – one UN staff member and two of the estimated 700 local people who had taken shelter from the violence.

Relief operations had been temporarily held up but were not being suspended, Gunness said.

John Ging, the head of UN operations in Gaza, told al-Jazeera television: “This is going to burn down the entire warehouse … thousands and thousands of tonnes of food, medical supplies and other emergency assistance is there.”

He said the phosphorus fires were hard to extinguish “because if you put water on it, it will just generate toxic fumes and do nothing to stop the burning”. Phosphorous munitions are banned under international law as a weapon but permitted if used to create a smokescreen.

Ban said he had demanded a full explanation from Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak.

“The defence minister said to me it was a grave mistake and he took it very seriously. He assured me that extra attention will be paid to UN facilities and staff and this will not be repeated,” Ban said.

The AFP news agency quoted witnesses as saying that a fire had broken out after an Israeli strike in a wing of al-Quds hospital in south-west Gaza City, where hundreds more people took shelter early today from advancing Israeli tanks. It was not clear if there were any injuries.

The news agency Reuters reported that a missile or shell had struck the Gaza tower block where it and other media organisations have offices. The 13th floor of al-Shurouq Tower, which houses Abu Dhabi television, appeared to have been hit, injuring one of its journalists.

Israeli forces were reported to be closing in on the outskirts of Gaza City, targeting 70 sites overnight and forcing thousands more Palestinians to flee their homes. It is not clear whether this morning’s offensive marks another escalation in the conflict or a brief foray ahead of a possible ceasefire.

Israel’s envoy Amos Gilad flew into Cairo today for talks with Egyptian mediators. He will not meet any of the Hamas representatives who are also in Egypt’s capital.

An Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, said Gilad was there to discuss the “parameters of the endgame” – a goal that was “close and attainable”. Regev said: “There is momentum in these discussions. We are hopeful that a deal will be based on a total cessation of Hamas fire into Israel and an arms embargo to prevent Hamas from rearming.”

The Egyptian plan appears to begin with a ceasefire of a week or 10 days, during which all fighting would stop but Israeli troops would remain on the ground in Gaza. Talks would then be held on the more difficult questions of stopping the smuggling of weapons to Hamas and lifting Israel’s long economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.

However, it is thought Hamas’s conditions for any deal would probably include an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces the moment a ceasefire started. That may prove too much for Israel to accept.

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