Mysterious wounds from Israeli shells in Gaza

Palestinians accuse Israel of using new bombs that
cause burn injuries never seen before.

By Jennie Matthew - GAZA CITY
Last Updated 2006-07-27

"When the bomb exploded from the plane. I felt I was
in hell. Real hell," shouts 31-year-old Ghassan
stabbing the air with his finger and straining over
the side of his grubby hospital bed.

Professing allegiance to Palestinian national security
but parroting ideology atune to armed factions,
Ghassan went to Gaza's Maghazi refugee camp last week
to fight the Israelis during a particularly bloody

"I feel chemicals. I feel high heat, I feel high
pain," he elaborates in English, both legs heavily
bandaged, as patients and visitors brush past in a
crowded corridor of Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital.

"They found shrapnel with 'test' written on it," he

Accusations abound that the Israelis, pressing a
nearly five-week offensive in which 130 Palestinians
have been killed in Gaza, are using a new weapon.

Doctors say they have never before seen such specific
burn injuries, concentrated so much on the lower body
and causing such a high propensity of amputations. The
health ministry has already called for an independent

A French humanitarian group reported unusually severe
injuries. One of its doctors reportedly raised the
possibility that Israel used cluster bombs.

In response to a query about use of a new type of
weapon possibly containing chemicals, the army said
only that "specific claims are being checked".

"The IDF (Israel Defence Force) use of weapon and
ammunition conforms with international law," it said
in a statement.

But the Palestinian health ministry spokesman said
that "we are sure that the occupation forces are using
bombs that are forbidden under international law."

At the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir el-Balah,
Habes el-Wehedi, a softly spoken senior surgeon, said
medical staff were "amazed" by injuries of more than
30 percent of the wounded admitted from Maghazi.

"There were amputations of limbs. Most patients were
afflicted below the waist. They had burns all over
their lower limb," he said.

Others were afflicted by what he described as
"translucent shrapnel not shown by X-ray" that caused

Wehedi studied in Romania and throughout his 20 years
in emergency medicine in Gaza and Jerusalem says this
is the first time he's seen such wounds.

A piece of plastic with the word "test" written on it
had been found. "I think it was in one of the
patient's wounds or something like that. One of the
nurses came to me. I saw it myself and touched it with
my hand."

Admitting there are no analysis laboratories in the
poorly equipped hospital, he confesses he has no
concrete proof only "suspicion" that the Israelis
shelled something other than the usual tank and plane

"As far as we are concerned, this is a new weapon for
us. This could be phosphorus, chemicals or a mix, but
until we find out and conduct an analysis we can't say
what type exactly," he said.

Visiting two patients bearing the hallmarks of such
injuries who have not yet been discharged or sent for
referral, Wehedi gently points out the injuries on a
16 and 17-year-old boy.

Ismail el-Sawaferi's lower legs, torso and face are
splattered everywhere with flecks of burn. His thighs
and abdomen are heavily bandaged. The 17-year-old said
he was standing in a group attacked from the air.

"I saw a light shinning in my face. I couldn't hear
anything. I was deaf. I lost my clothes and after that
I woke up in the emergency room," he said.

Wehedi's suspicions are backed up by fellow Deir
al-Balah hospital doctor Ismail Bashir, 40, who has
been working in emergency medicine since the first
Palestinian uprising broke out in 1987.

Stuart Shepherd from the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said "some kind
of inquiry" was needed, confirming that the
Palestinian health ministry had already requested an
independent commission of inquiry.

French group Medecins du Monde said its emergency
doctor, Regis Garrigues, who has traveled regularly to
Gaza "noted the particular gravity and severity of
injuries" from the latest conflict.

Garrigues was quoted as telling French newspaper
Liberation that "this resembles the effects of cluster
bombs", particularly dangerous because they have a
high level of duds that can explode much later after
the attack.

The US-based rights group, Human Rights Watch, also
accused Israel of using artillery-fired cluster
munitions in Lebanon.


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