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Gaza’s children: Israel’s shame

Israel’s use of white phosphorus and other weapons containing toxic materials have triggered an alarming increase in birth defects in Gaza.

Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza

Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza

The following story by Mariam Hamed was published in


By Mariam Hamed

In Gaza’s hospitals, one might see peculiar, near-alien looking objects in the maternity ward. Is this child human, or is it from another planet, escaped from some Hollywood movie?

The answer will surprise you when a Palestinian mother says: This is my son!

The Palestinian Ministry of Healthy in Gaza has issued several press releases concerning the consequences of the human and environmental disasters in Gaza, highlighting Israel’s use of weapons containing toxic metals and carcinogens, both of which are highly harmful to the developing developing foetus.

Ahmed Alashi, Director of Public Relations and Media at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, says cases of birth defects in Gaza’s hospitals are on the rise. He added, “in 2009 after the Israeli aggression in Gaza, the number of cases of fetal abnormality in the Gaza Strip reached 26 while… in 2010 the figure reached 48 cases.” That’s is nearly double the instances of birth defects in a single year.

After the recent war on Gaza, the New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC), an Italy-based group of scientists and doctors who study the effects of non-conventional weapons and the middle-term effects on residents in areas affected by conflict, conducted a study on the effects of Operation Cast Lead on Gazans. Through their field research in Gaza, the found four holes from separate bombing operations (the first two from July 2006 bombing campaigns – in Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya camp – and the other two from the Cast Lead bombings in Tufah, east of Gaza City).

Their research determined the explosives contained white phosphorus, a toxic metallic element high in known carcinogens. Further analysis of the bombed areas found evidence of other metals harmful to human reproductive and nervous systems: molibden, tungsten, cadmium, cobalt, strontium – all of which have adverse effects on humans and the environment.

The Al Damer Foundation for Human Rights conducted a study showing the areas around Jabaliya, Beit Hanoun, and Beit Lahiya are the most vulnerable to fetal abnormalities and health concerns. These areas have also seen more Israeli aggression and felt the use of weapons containing toxic and radioactive materials more than any other area in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Humanitarian law in accordance with the Geneva Conventions prohibits the use of white phosphorus as a weapon (its intended use is as an obscurant). Israel did use WP as a weapon of aggression and has even admitted to doing so – but with little more than reprimand from the international community. Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian and environmental crisis, and its million and a half residents are all at risk. An entire generation yet to be born is at risk. When will the world tell Israel enough is enough and stand up for Gaza?

Photos: Mariam Hamed, taken at Al-Shifa Hospital and obtained from the Ministry of Health
Photo obtained from Gaza's Ministry of Health


Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza

Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza

Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza

Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza

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