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Israel bombs cause wounds 'never seen before'

Reuters

Thursday July 27, 2006

BEIRUT - Lebanon is investigating reports from doctors that Israel has used weapons in its 15-day-old bombardment of southern Lebanon that have caused wounds they have never seen before.

"We are sending off samples tomorrow, but we have no confirmation yet that illegal weapons have been used," Health Minister Mohammed Khalife told Reuters. The Israeli army said it had used only conventional weapons and ammunition in attacks aimed at Hizbollah guerrillas and nothing contravening international law.

Blackened bodies have been showing up at hospitals in southern Lebanon two weeks into the war between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas that has seen at least 418 people, mostly civilians, killed in Lebanon and at least 42 Israelis.

Killed by Israeli air raids, the Lebanese dead are charred in a way local doctors, who have lived through years of civil war and Israeli occupation, say they have not seen before.

Bachir Cham, a Belgian-Lebanese doctor at the Southern Medical Centre in Sidon, received eight bodies after an Israeli air raid on nearby Rmeili which he said exhibited such wounds.

He has taken 24 samples from the bodies to test what killed them. He believes it is a chemical.

Cham said the bodies of some victims were "black as shoes, so they are definitely using chemical weapons. They are all black but their hair and skin is intact so they are not really burnt. It is something else."

"If you burnt someone with petrol their hair would burn and their skin would burn down to the bone. The Israelis are 100 per cent using chemical weapons."

Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has repeatedly accused Israel of using phosphorus bombs in its offensive.

Human Rights Watch, which has accused the Israeli army of using cluster bombs in populated areas of southern Lebanon, said it had not verified claims that Israel had used phosphorus.

"We are investigating but we haven't confirmed anything yet. We have seen phosphorus used before and we have seen it in the artillery stocks of the Israeli army in the north," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.

"Phosphorus shells do have a legitimate use in illuminating the battlefield at night. The offensive use of phosphorus would be a violation of international conventions."

Television footage shows some bodies, such as those of 20 civilians killed when an Israeli missile hit the van in which they were fleeing the border village of Marwaheen, blackened in the way Cham describes. No one knows what killed them.

"We are seeing abnormal burns, different from wars we've seen in the past. The corpses of these victims are shrinking to half their normal size. You think it is the corpse of a child at first but it turns out to be a grown man," said Raed Salman Zeinedine, director of Tyre Government Hospital.

"We've never seen anything like it but what the causes are I don't want to speculate. We have no scientific answer."

The Israel Army said it did not target civilians at all.

"We use only weapons and ammunition which will best hit our targets and cause least collateral damage," said army spokesman Captain Jacob Dallal.

"It could be that a body is burned from fire or the force of an explosion, but between that and suggesting we do something illegal under international law are two different things."

- REUTERS


:: Article nr. 25136 sent on 28-jul-2006 10:03 ECT

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