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Eyewitness report: Israel is guilty of war crimes

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Human rights worker Caoimhe Butterly speaks out from Gaza
Issue 2135
The white phosphorous attack on the school in Beit Lahia
The white phosphorous attack on the school in Beit Lahia

Israel has been using banned weapons such as white phosphorus and Dime bombs during its assault on Gaza, according to eyewitness evidence from Irish activist Caoimhe Butterly.

Caoimhe is a human rights worker based in Gaza since September. She was out of the country when the bombing started, but managed to slip back in around two weeks ago. She has since visited some of the places shelled by the Israelis.

“I was in the city of Beit Lahia and the Jabalia refugee camp not long after a UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] school was hit,” she told Socialist Worker on Tuesday of this week. “Two young brothers were killed and over 40 people were wounded.

“The boys were killed by tank shells fired into the school – but there was also white phosphorous dropped there. When we arrived there were still sponge-like particles on the ground. They remain ignited for hours after they’ve been dropped.

“I’ve visited lots of hospitals and talked to doctors. They point to the burns that are coming in and saying they’ve never dealt with such burns before.


“Doctors also point to the use of Dime bombs. These contain a type of explosive that fragments into tiny metal filaments. These get carried around in the bloodstream and shred your internal organs.

“The doctors pointed to patients who had been admitted in a stable condition – but later died of these Dime wounds.

“There has to be recognition that the Israeli army perpetrated war crimes against a captive civilian population.”

Caoimhe explained how Israeli ground troops used bulldozers to clear areas of Gaza that had already been devastated by three weeks of bombing.

“Yesterday I went to a farming village in the north of Gaza,” she said. “There’s not a single building left standing – they bombed every single house.

“People are completely alone. You just see people in shock sitting in the ruins of their homes. Others are still digging in the rubble, often with their bare hands, looking for the bodies of loved ones. The Palestinians have very little access to earth-moving machinery or bulldozers. Help from relief agencies is also very scarce.”

As Socialist Worker spoke to Caoimhe over the phone we heard explosions in the background. “That’s more shelling starting, by the way,” she casually commented.

“There are regular ceasefire violations by the Israeli army. I was working up north on the first day of the ceasefire when they started shelling. Four people were killed – a mother and child and two farmers.”

Caoimhe initially tried to return to Gaza on the boat Dignity, which set sail from Cyprus to try and bring in medical supplies for the Palestinians. But the Israeli navy rammed the boat and it had to divert to Lebanon.

She eventually managed to return via the

Rafah crossing to Egypt – despite the border being kept shut on the orders of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak.

“Israel’s siege has had a devastating effect on Gaza’s humanitarian structure,” said Caoimhe. “But this would have been so much less if the Rafah crossing had been open. People understand that the Egyptian government has been complicit in perpetuation of the siege.”

Caoimhe Butterly is an organiser with the Free Gaza movement. She spoke to Socialist Worker journalist Ken Olende. For more information on the campaign go to »


THIS SATURDAY – 24 January 2009
Assemble 2pm outside BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA
(tube: Great Portland Street, Regent’s Park)
Called by the Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Association and many other organisations


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