Israel now admits reprimanding two top army officers for ordering the Jan. 15 attack on the UN compound in Gaza last year that used white phosphorus shells. (Apparently their strategy is, if they admit to one use, we can all pretend they weren't using it everywhere else in Gaza.)
Last year, the official explanation was that the shells were merely meant to provide cover for ground operation:
The admission is contained in the Israeli response to the UN's Goldstone report, which concluded both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes.
Both officers have retained their ranks, according to reports.
The Israeli army denies breaking the rules of engagement over the use of white phosphorus.
During the 22-day conflict last year, media pictures showed incendiary shells raining down on a UN compound.
The officers were named in Israeli media reports as Gaza Division Commander Brig Gen Eyal Eisenberg and Givati Brigade Commander Col Ilan Malka.
"Several artillery shells were fired in violation of the rules of engagement prohibiting use of such artillery near populated areas," the Israeli response to the Goldstone report says.
The officers were charged with "exceeding their authority" in ordering the use of the weapons in the attack.
An Israeli Defence Force spokesman said that the reprimand would be noted on their records and would be considered if they apply for promotion in future.
Brig Gen Eisenberg is still in command of Israel's Gaza division, and Col Malka has been moved to the West Bank under the same rank, according to the Reuters news agency.
In March 2009, Human Rights Watch released a report calling their use of white phosphorus "indescriminate" and "evidence of war crimes":
The 71-page report, "Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," provides witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school. The report also presents ballistics evidence, photographs, and satellite imagery, as well as documents from the Israeli military and government.
Militaries use white phosphorus primarily to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It can also be used as an incendiary weapon.
"In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died."
The report documents a pattern or policy of white phosphorus use that Human Rights Watch says must have required the approval of senior military officers.
"For the needless civilian deaths caused by white phosphorus, senior commanders should be held to account," Abrahams said.
And by God, senior commanders are being held to account! Why, it's going into their personnel file! You don't get much more serious than that.