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After the war, Gazans seek answers on white phosphorus

Gaza doctors add to the growing number of accounts that suggest Israel used white phosphorus munitions against international norms of war.

Burn Unit: Nafiz Abu Shabam says many Gazans that he treated were burned by white phosphorus.

Ilene R. Prusher/The Christian Science Monitor

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When Nafiz Abu Shabam received a 5-year-old patient at the Shifa Hospital early in the war between Israel and Hamas, he dressed her burns and sent her for tests. Three hours later, when he and other medical staff redressed the wound, they saw smoke coming from it.

"We found small pieces of foreign material in her body, and even when we picked it out, the wound was still smoking," he says. "We were later told [by foreign doctors and human rights workers who arrived after the war started] that it was white phosphorus."

Dr. Abu Shabam, head of the burn unit of Gaza City's main public hospital, now says that hundreds of Gazans from all parts of the strip, who were brought to the hospital during the war with unusual burns, must have been victims of white phosphorus shells used by Israel.

"We had patients who had burns over 10 to 15 percent of their body, and with that much of a burn, these people should not have died," Abu Shabam says.

His accusations about white phosphorus munitions add to the growing pool of accounts from Palestinian and foreign physicians and rights groups that suggest Israel used white phosphorus munitions in populated areas during the war and against the international norms of war.

As white phosphorus is highly incendiary, can reignite when exposed to oxygen, and causes painful chemical burns, it is not intended – or legal under international law – for use in civilian areas.

'Weapons permitted by law'


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