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Israel-Hamas arms embargo urged

Palestinians run for cover during an Israeli strike over a UN school in Beit Lahia, 17/01
Israel has denied allegations of illegal use of white phosphorus rounds

Amnesty International has called for a freeze on arms sales to Israel and Palestinian groups such as Hamas following the recent Gaza conflict.

The human rights group said it had evidence both Israel and Hamas had used weapons sourced from overseas to carry out attacks on civilians.

It called for the UN Security Council to impose the embargo on all parties.

Both Israel and Hamas have rejected the conclusions of the report, in which Amnesty accuses each of war crimes.

In the report, Israel is accused of illegally using white phosphorus and other armaments supplied by the US in Gaza, while Hamas is condemned for launching unguided rockets into Israel.

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Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel had used white phosphorus but not as an anti-personnel weapon.

The substance, which is used to lay smokescreens, is legal for use on open ground but its use in built-up areas where civilians are found is banned under international conventions.

"We tried to be as surgical as humanly possible in a difficult combat situation," he said.

Mr Regev criticised Amnesty's methodology, saying the report's authors used what he called "tainted" data provided by Hamas.

He said Israel was conducting its own investigation into whether any of its munitions were used outside international law.

Hamas also criticised the report's findings as "unjust and unfair".

"It [the report] equates between the criminal and the victim," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.

"There is not a single country in the world which exports weapons to the Hamas movement. At the same time main countries, big countries and superpowers are exporting nuclear and phosphorus weapons, as well as weapons of mass destruction, to the Zionist occupier [Israel]."

Remains of Qassam rocket, Sderot, Israel (06/01/09)

Israel launched an air strike on central Gaza on Monday after one of its patrols came under fire near the Kissufim border crossing but there were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.

A single rocket launched from Gaza also hit Israeli territory without causing injuries or damage, Israel's military said.

The incidents came despite unilateral truces declared by both Israel and Hamas on 18 January.

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided to replace his main negotiator at the talks mediated by Egypt on a lasting truce with Hamas in Gaza, officials say.

Amos Gilad criticised Mr Olmert last week for what he called an inconsistent approach to the talks, which he described as insulting to the Egyptians.

'War crimes'

Donatella Rovera, the head of an Amnesty fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza, said: "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

[Israeli] attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure
Donatella Rovera
Amnesty International

"Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure.

"At the same time, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets that had been smuggled in or made of components from abroad at civilian areas in Israel.

"Though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel, such rocket firing also constitutes a war crime and caused several civilian deaths."

The report said fragments and components of artillery, tank shells, fins from mortar rounds and aircraft-launched missiles and bombs were found in school playgrounds, hospitals and homes in Gaza.

Israel's weaponry predominantly came from the US, the report said.

About 1,300 Gazans and 13 Israelis died in 22 days of fighting last month.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
New York Times Netanyahu Rebuffed Again in Efforts to Form Coalition - 17 hrs ago
Gulf Daily News Amnesty urges arms embargo - 24 hrs ago
CNN Amnesty seeks arms embargo over Gaza - 26 hrs ago
ABC Online Israel, Hamas reject war crime accusations - 30 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Halt military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges - 32 hrs ago



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