Richard Silverstein: Israel Used Depleted Uranium Munitions During Gaza Offensive
I’m beginning to read reports from Gaza that indicate that the IDF may’ve used depleted uranium munitions during its recent assault. A local journalist writes in Electronic Intifada about the grotesque forms of some of the victims’ wounds. He (incorrectly, I believe) associates them with chemical weapons like white phosphorus:
Among those receiving treatment in Nasser hospital in Khan Younis is a man who was hit by an Israeli drone that struck a farm owned by his family in southern Gaza. A friend of his was killed in the attack. “I was hit directly in my abdomen and two legs,” said the man, who is in his thirties and asked not to be named.
Baker al-Derdy, the head nurse in Nasser hospital, said that when this man was first admitted, there was “a strange smell, almost chemical” from him. Al-Derdy pointed to other indications that Israel may have used chemical weapons during its offensive.
“Some of the symptoms we have seen are abnormal,” al-Derdy added. “The type of burns that appear on the bodies suggest that the weapons employed were not conventional. The burns go deep into the skin and the skin itself turns blue. And I can tell you that the burns hit even the third layer of the skin.”
…Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza…acknowledged that some of the burns witnessed were deeper than those associated with conventional weapons.
“We in Gaza and health bodies in the West Bank do not have laboratories where we could properly examine what types of weapons have been used in Israeli attacks,” al-Qedra said. “But according to what we have seen so far, it appears that Israel used some explosive weapons or ammunition that caused burns and deep wounds. In most cases of those killed, we have seen that bodies were either torn apart or completely burnt out. Also, many of those injured have had their lower or upper limbs amputated.”
Making clear that I’m neither a doctor nor a weapons specialist, the general description of these savage wounds reminds me much more of the DIME munition developed by the U.S. and used by the IDF in Gaza in 2006. I posted several times about this horrific weapon. The Gaza Interior Ministry, in the midst of the fighting, released a statement claiming it had recorded high rates of radioactivity at bombing sites, claiming that unconventional weapons were used against a civilian population:
Major Hazem Abu Murad, assistant director of explosives engineering and member of the Committee to document war crimes, revealed that the occupation used radioactive materials in the explosives with which it had bombed the Gaza Strip.
Abu Murad told the Interior Ministry that the weapons with which Israel targeted Gaza contain heavy elements, including the Uranium, tungsten, aluminum and nickel”, and pointed out that these materials raise the temperature in the center of the explosion to 7 thousand degrees Celsius, and boost the destructive ability of the shell.
He also pointed to the types of weapons used by the occupation during the recent aggression on the Gaza Strip, noting that among those weapons there are three types of ammunition which have been used for the first time.
If true, and I have no way of knowing whether Hamas’ claim was based on scientific testing, tungsten would be indicative of the use of DIME. The presence of uranium might lead in a different direction, as the IDF has weapons that contain depleted uranium. Here are some of its characteristics:
Depleted uranium is very dense…Thus a given mass of it has a smaller diameter than an equivalent lead projectile, with less aerodynamic drag and deeper penetration due to a higher pressure at point of impact. DU projectile ordnance is often incendiary because of its pyrophoric property.
…Depleted uranium is favored…because it is self-sharpening and pyrophoric. On impact with a hard target…the nose of the rod fractures in such a way that it remains sharp. The impact and subsequent release of heat energy causes it to disintegrate to dust and burn when it reaches air…When a DU penetrator reaches the interior of an armored vehicle, it catches fire, often igniting ammunition and fuel.
Further support for the thesis of its use by the IDF is a report to me from an Israeli source confirming the IDF used depleted uranium in Gaza. My source cannot confirm whether DIME was used or not.
The UN Human Rights Commission has asked member states to curb the use of such weapons and a paper prepared for the body argued that they may contravene numerous international treaties. The European Parliament called for a ban on DU munitions.
Here are some of their health effects:
Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal. DU is less toxic than other heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. It is weakly radioactive but remains radioactive because of its long half-life.
…British Army doctors warned the British…Ministry of Defence that exposure to depleted uranium increased the risk of developing lung, lymph and brain cancer, and recommended a series of safety precautions.
This seems perfectly in synch with the typical practice of the IDF to exploit whatever weapons appear convenient and effective, no matter how controversial or even illegal their use might be, especially against a largely civilian population. This holds true for cluster bombs, white phosphorus and DIME, all of which Israel has employed during attacks on civilian areas of Lebanon and Gaza.
By the way, I’ve read several mainstream journalists claim that less than half those killed in Gaza were civilians. This is not true. Gaza human rights groups have counted 183 fatalities of whom 103 were civilian.
Source: Richard Silverstein