PALESTINE: Israeli army used depleted uranium


Palestinians have submitted a report to the United Nations saying weapons used by Israel to quell the four-month-old intifada in Palestine contained depleted uranium, the January 19-20 Jordan Times reported.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) accused Israel's occupation forces of using artillery containing depleted uranium to shell Palestinian areas from warships and helicopter gunships.

"Apache and Cobra helicopters fired missiles of this kind at small Fatah offices in Ramallah at the beginning of November, completely destroying them", the PLO said. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah group is the PLO's main faction.

"Bullets coated in depleted uranium were used against a group of young men affiliated to Fatah in the Ramallah area", the group said, citing another incident in the West Bank.

An Israeli army official denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, the personal representative of UN secretary general Kofi Annan in southern Lebanon, Staffan de Mistura, said on January 18 that he favoured an inquiry into Israel's use of shells tipped with depleted uranium in Lebanon.

"Mr Berri is right to raise the issue of depleted uranium", de Mistura said after meeting Lebanon's parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, adding that it is a question that concerns the whole world.

Berri said on January 17 that he was "convinced" that Israel used shells tipped with depleted uranium in Lebanon and called for an international inquiry. He said the Israeli media had talked of the use of depleted uranium as far back as 1985 and as fighting was then taking place on a daily basis, the Lebanese were convinced that Israel had used Lebanon to test the weapons.

An Agence France Press journalist saw a 66mm shell marked "radioactive material" on May 4 near the bodies of two Hizbollah fighters killed in an Israeli shelling attack in southern Lebanon, less than a month before Israel withdrew from the area.

The Israeli press has reported that the Israeli army used US-made depleted uranium weapons, but a military spokesperson said the shells had been taken out of service a year earlier.