Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Amnesty urges arms embargo against Israel, Hamas

THE GUARDIAN , JERUSALEM

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, 227kg bombs and Hellfire missiles.

In a report released yesterday, 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 US$30 billion 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 program 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,” he said.

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 on Sunday.

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 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 Jan. 15, 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 in Arkansas in October 1991.

Amnesty 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 Jan. 4, Amnesty found fragments of an AGM114 Hellfire missile, made by Hellfire Systems of Orlando, Florida, 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[mm] and 4mm square in size.”

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