January 20, 2009
Blind and burnt: Mahmoud, 14, young victim of banned white phosphorus shelling
Mahmoud Mattar lies unconscious in hospital. 'Two of his friends who were walking with him were killed instantly'
Blinded in both eyes, with third-degree burns over much of his torso, Mahmoud lies unconscious in the
“He was walking to the mosque when the attack started,” his uncle, Nahad Mattar, said. “Two of his friends who were walking with him were killed instantly. Their bodies are in pieces. He was hit by something and his body began to burn.
“There were bits of blood and skin all over him. We couldn't tell what was his and what was other people.”
Witnesses in Jabalya describe thesigns of white phosphorus shelling — thick white smoke, a strong smell and fires that burn until covered with sand — and say that dozens more experienced burns in the same attack.
Israel, which originally denied the use of white phosphorus in Gaza when questioned by The Times two weeks ago, has since said that all weapons used in
The Times has uncovered dozens of incidents in which doctors say that civilians have been wounded by white phosphorus, which burns at extremely high temperatures until its oxygen is cut off. Last week UN officials in
Yesterday Amnesty International said its team had found proof that Israeli forces were using white phosphorus in densely-populated residential areas in
Medical experts in
Allison El Soukary, a British nurse who lives in Cairo and worked in an Essex burns unit for several years, said: “The shapes of the burns, small circular splotches that go deep into the skin — those are where the chemical hit and burnt through.” Doctors are unsure how long it will take for Mahmoud to recover. His breathing is ragged and unsteady and he does not understand where he is or why he is in pain. On the day he was wounded his father and brother took him to
Because of the extent of his injuries, Mahmoud received special clearance to travel to
Mahmoud Hassanat, Muhammad's brother, now sits in the polished marble hospital cafeteria, dividing his worry between family members still in
“I had left him for dead,” he said. “I went to cemetery to prepare a burial plot and our father had gone home to tell our mother that her son was killed. Our mother went running down the street and discovered that he was still breathing a little. Doctors also thought he would die, but he is alive.”
Without his legs and with a broken arm, jaw, and ribs, Muhammad will no longer be able to support his wife and four children in his old job as an electrician. “We were attacked by an army. But we are not an army, we have no way to defend ourselves,” said his brother. “We will go back to our home. We are not political but we will go on with Hamas. This is how it is.”
Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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