On this day in 2009: Israel attacks UN school in Gaza with white phosphorus, killing two brothers and wounding 12 others
1,898 people were taking shelter from the fighting when artillery shells hit the UN school in Beit Lahiya at around 6 a.m. on 17 January, 2009. Two brothers, aged five and seven, were killed. Their 18-year-old sister was grievously injured and had to have her leg amputated. Their mother lost a hand and sustained a serious head injury. Twelve others were injured. According to relatives, they had fled their homes to escape the bombardments and had come to the school hoping to find safety.
Human Rights Watch visited the site on January 23, six days after the attack, and saw white phosphorus wedges still burning when children dug them out of the sand.
The use of white phosphorus as a weapon – as opposed to its use as an obscurant and infrared blocking smoke screen – is banned by the United Nation’s third convention on conventional weapons.
Watch: Rain of Fire: White Phosphorus in Gaza
(Photo: Iyad El-Baba)