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Israel Used Depleted Uranium Munitions During Gaza Offensive

gaza victims

Gaza victim of Israeli attack which may’ve made use of unconventional weapons (ActiveStills–Anne Paq)

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.[65] 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.

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{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Nimrod December 6, 2012, 2:57 AM

    @Richard

    My guess of the type of munition is just as good as anyone else’s, but if the man was injured by a drone-fired missile, than it’s probably the same type of missile that’s usually used, and the Hamas published pictures of (of one missile that did not explode). I’m sure you could easily find it online.
    This (Israel made) missile replaced the Hell-fire missile in order to lower peripheral damage, and I have now knowledge of how it works, but it is VERY unlikely to be DU, which is effective against armored targets and not soft targets.

    I would also like to address your last paragraph:
    “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.”

    How can you determine that “Gaza human rights groups” numbers are more reliable than main-stream media numbers?
    And what about the 6 “collaborators” that were lynched and their bodies dragged in Gaza’s streets? are they also counted in the list as Palestinian civilians fatalities?

    • Richard Silverstein December 6, 2012, 9:58 PM

      DU is effective against any sort of hardened target, not just armor. Since Israel’s apologists in this thread don’t believe Israel used DU because there weren’t appropriate targets for which it would be effective, you might want to ask the U.S. why it used DU In Falluja, where there was no armor, but apparently targets hardened enough that they decided to use this munition to penetrate.

      Gaza human rights groups are completely independent, with no connection to Hamas & their casualty counts are respected & used by media & governments around the world in discussing the Gaza fighting (except Israel of course, which uses its own hocus pocus number system to make up fake casualty counts).

      As for the collaborators, if you tell me whether IDF Capt. Meir Tobianski was included in the casualty count for the 1948 War and tell me who was punished for his execution, then we can talk about Gaza collaborators.

      • Nimrod December 7, 2012, 5:26 AM

        As much as you want it to be true – its just not.
        DU is used, as far as I know, as AP munition for tanks, and for attack helicopter canons, for the same reason – penetrating a tank’s armor. Using such ammo on unarmored vehicles is useless and a waste of expensive resources.
        Why did the US army use it in afganistan? I dont know, you yell me – it’s tax money.

        Gaza human right geoups are indipendent as long as the criticize Israel.

        As for meir Tobianski, I think its a shame the the man who was responsible for his death was not harshly punished. A least Tobianski was nut behaded and dragged all over gaza by a motorcycle.
        I wonder how much you spend on digging that singe example from the Israeli side

        • Richard Silverstein December 8, 2012, 3:07 AM

          At least three senior IDF officers, including one military lawyer, were responsible for his execution. They all went on to distinguished careers in the IDF & Israeli civic life w/o a blemish on their record.

          Do you think it was any consolation to Tobianski’s widow that her husband was only shot by firing squad in an abandoned schoolhouse after trial by kangaroo court rather than being dragged behind a motorcycle in Gaza?

          Gaza human rights groups document violations of human rights and criticize Hamas too.

        • Donald December 8, 2012, 1:17 PM

          “Gaza human right geoups are indipendent as long as the criticize Israel.”

          You didn’t bother to check. Go google the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. They criticize Israel, as they should, but they also criticize Hamas, the PA, and honor killings. They condemned the killings of the six collaborators. They oppose the death penalty. What is wrong with you?

          Palestinian Center for Human Rights

        • Donald December 8, 2012, 1:21 PM

          And here’s a link to the Palestinian Center on Human Rights and their work on honor killings.

          link

          I asked Nimrod what was wrong with him. I think I already know.

    • Deïr Yassin December 6, 2012, 11:08 PM

      @ Nimrod
      Could you please post a serious source about the 6 collaborators that were lynched and their bodies dragged throught the streets. Or should we just conclude that you’re adding 5 extra yourself ?

      • mary December 7, 2012, 4:28 AM

        It’s off-topic so don’t encourage him. We already addressed the matter of the collaborators a couple of weeks ago elsewhere.

        In fact, you should know by now that this is a hasbara tactic meant to seize control of the conversation so that we ignore the topic before us.

        Casualty counts will change as time passes and are varied according to their source. This is a given. It is common sense, however, that human rights groups inside Gaza would have a more accurate count than the MSM, who usually get their casualty figures from Israeli sources.

      • Deïr Yassin December 8, 2012, 4:46 AM

        @ Mary
        I know it’s a hasbara-trick, but I still don’t want to let Nimrod’s lie stand by itself (that’s a hasbara-trick too).The fact that he doesn’t answer – though he’s been back on this thread – shows that he knows he’s lying.

  • mary December 6, 2012, 3:27 AM

    How incredibly brutal. Having seen many photos of victims in this latest Israeli rampage, I honestly cannot say what is worse – to see victims smashed under tons of falling concrete or incinerated by the heat of explosion, or fried with chemicals or DU. All are crimes against humanity and Israel has been doing this to civilians for far too long. What is particularly disgusting is the public admission that they tested new weapons on the Gazans as a “dry run” for their anticipated attack on Iran. How incredibly cynical and inhuman. I hope with all my heart that there is some redress for the Gazans in either the ICC or the ICJ.

  • pabelmont December 6, 2012, 5:38 AM

    Last I heard, Depleted Unarium was for anti-tank weapons, that is, to penetrate VERY TOUGH ARMOR.
    I presume that Gazans had no such armor. In that case, use of such weapons (in addition to being unnecessarily EXPENSIVE) (and inexcusably environmentally harmful) would, if true, have been un-needed.

    Is this how USA and Israel mean to get rid of nuclear waste — spreading it around the countryside of folks they don’t like? Poisoning the countryside for 1000 years (I made up the 1000)?

    If Israel used those weapons here, where there was absolutely no excuse to do so, then I think that the territorial exchange (Palestinian land exchanged for Israeli land in a 2-state “peace”) should include replacement of ALL of Gaza (given to Israel) in return for land in (say) Galilee. Let Israelis live in their own mess!

  • Joel December 6, 2012, 10:04 AM

    @pabel

    “Last I heard, Depleted Unarium was for anti-tank weapons, that is, to penetrate VERY TOUGH ARMOR.
    I presume that Gazans had no such armor.”

    Right. Which makes it less likely that Israel used this ordnance against human targets and more likely that DIME weapons were used, which makes the Gazan’s radioactivity claims are a canard.

    DIME weapons, if I’m not mistaken, are LESS likely to cause collateral damage to civilians.

    • Richard Silverstein December 6, 2012, 9:40 PM

      A bunch of completely mistaken suppositions. The U.S used depleted uranium munitions in Falluja & there was no enemy armor there either. The weapon has greater power of penetration than conventional weapons & so is used whenever your forces want to get deep penetration of a target. This might be the case if you’re trying to bomb a tunnel or get at a target inside a building, all of which Israel tried to do.

      As for DIME, it has killed & grievously injured many civilians. The supposed benefit is that the kill zone is smaller than a conventional explosive. But if you’re inside the kill zone, whether civilian or fighter you’re gonna be riddled with sizzling tungsten micro-shrapnel. And many civilians have been.

  • mary December 6, 2012, 10:50 AM

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf14.html

    In reading the above, it seems doubtful that DU is responsible for the wounds reported in Gaza.

    This is much more nightmarish:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article9322.htm

  • Rain December 6, 2012, 12:30 PM

    What an irresponsible title and article. Complete supposition about chemical warfare and high radioactive levels, with hearsay turned into meandering fact. Yes, yes, I know. It was all confirmed by an Israeli source.

  • bar_kochba132 December 6, 2012, 1:04 PM

    Mary-
    I am sure you are aware about the suicide bombers using bombs filled with shrapnel and laced with rat poison. The people who did these things are revered as heroes both by HAMAS and the official FATAH Palestinian Authority. Over 1000 Israelis were killed by these types of attacks. Now, assuming as you do that the Palestinians are the “good guys” in this conflict, wouldn’t you say that this type of attack does NOT place the Palestinians on a “higher moral plane” than you say Israel is on? Let’s say this article is true about the depleted uranium. Wouldn’t it be correct to say there was no moral difference between the two sides? So why get all worked up about how bad Israel is if there is no real difference?

    • Richard Silverstein December 7, 2012, 12:58 AM

      Oh please. The IDF pilot who assassinated Ahmed Jabari and several civilians would be revered by many Israelis if they knew his name. Israel reveres IDF generals who castrated unarmed Palestinians in acts of vigilant justice. They even wrote popular songs celebrating it. Don’t tell me about Palestinian blood lust. When you can get rid of your own & Israel’s, then we can talk.

      I’m getting tired of quoting this statistic…but for every 1 Israeli civilian killed SIX Palestinian civilians are killed. But you don’t shed any tears for them, do you? You only shed Jewish tears for Jewish blood.

      As for a “higher moral plane,” I’d say a nation that kills Lebanese children using cluster bombs & Gaza children by dropping white phosphorus on them doesn’t have any call to besmirch the moral record of Palestinians. And Yes, there is a clear moral difference between the two sides.

    • mary December 7, 2012, 4:29 AM

      Just shut up, Kochba. You are also off topic and intending to annoy.

    • rudy stiener December 17, 2012, 2:29 PM

      and your point of all that falderal is what exactly??

  • Arie Brand December 6, 2012, 2:34 PM

    I would have loved to hear Obama say that there was a red line here that could not be crossed “without serious consequences” – as he did with Syria.

    • mary December 6, 2012, 11:35 PM

      Not likely, since the weapons probably were supplied to Israel by the US.

      • Nimrod December 7, 2012, 5:30 AM

        No, mary.
        These particular weapons are manufactured by Israel. IAI to be more exact.
        Te US made weapon which it replaced, the Hellfire missile caused much more damage

        • mary December 8, 2012, 6:03 AM

          No matter. That $3 billion of US taxpayer money paid to Israel every year covers it quite nicely.

  • Fred Plester December 7, 2012, 12:46 PM

    DU is used in high velocity (kinetic energy) weapons, usually those fired from a big gun. Most of the major European powers seem to have found a way of making tungsten penetrators do a better job, but not necessarily a cheaper one.

    I don’t think there are any Israeli drones capable of carrying the sort of gun that could usefully employ DU munitions.

    However, most drones capable of carrying Hellfire or similar missiles, can also carry “small diameter bombs”, and there’s a DIME variant of that alright. The whole idea of “DIME” is to concentrate the effects of an explosive charge, in a small area, by surrounding it with a non-reactive dense metal powder. (I wouldn’t describe DU are “non-reactive” in this context: it can burn fiercely.) Because the dense metal is a powder, not large fragments, the particles capture most of the explosive energy as kinetic energy, but don’t travel very far, so you’re left with a small cloud of very hot dust. Bear in mind when reading Russian hand-wringing moralization about this, that if you surround the explosive with a reactive metal powder, zinc or titanium, say, the cloud of hot metal dust reacts violently with the air and causes a massively powerful blast wave. This is what Russian munitions engineers did and this is what flattened Grozny.

    Some of the very localised deep burns, however, sound to me like a directed energy weapon, which could be microwaves if not a laser.

    There’s also been research in some quarters into corrosive weapons, where some kind of super-corrosive acid is dispersed. It would take some mental and legal gymnastics not to describe such a thing as a chemical weapon, even if the idea was to disable equipment rather than kill people. I don’t think any military lab can produce an acid stronger than Aqua Rega, as used in mining labs and the like, but they might have found a way of making an existing strong acid viscous so it would stick to objects and eat holes into them. It would be a bit like the difference between napalm and petrol: similar energy per pound, but napalm tends to concentrate heat on what it’s stuck to. If an acid did that, it could appear like something out of a Science Fiction movie (a particular SF movie in fact) but the acid wouldn’t have to be stronger, molecule for molecule, than acids used everyday in industry. I really don’t think it’s possible for acids to be much stronger than the ones were all know about. But there might be ways of making them more effective.

  • JEAN OGORMAN September 22, 2014, 6:11 AM

    Isreal should face war crimes in the intenatioal court at the Haguethere is no dout in my mind they used smart bombs befor in the last war againts gaza these people need there freedom and land bring them Isreal to trial they can not keep ethic cleansing the people .

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