The weapon is believed to have caused more than 300 serious injuries leading to 62 amputations and 200 deaths between the months of June and July, doctors told Aljazeera.

It is widely believed the weapon is similar to the one tested by the US military and called Dime (Dense Inert Metal Explosive). It causes a powerful blast within a small radius.

Haaretz newspaper reported that the evidence in the Rai24 news investigation was based on witness accounts from doctors in the Gaza Strip, as well as tests carried out in an Italian laboratory.

 

"The investigative team is the same one that exposed the use by US forces in Iraq of phosphorous bombs, against Iraqi rebels in Falluja," the Haaretz newspaper reported.

 

Yitzhak Ben-Israel, major-general in the Israel air force, formerly head of the army's weapons-development programme, was also quoted in Haaretz as telling the Italian journalists: "One of the ideas [behind the weapon] is to allow those targeted to be hit without causing damage to bystanders or other persons."

Hospital reports

The investigation follows reports by Gaza-based doctors of inexplicably serious injuries.

Juma Saqa, of Shifa hospital, told Aljazeera that doctors found small entry wounds on the bodies of the wounded and the dead.

 

According to Saqa, a powder was found on the victims' bodies and in their internal organs.

"The powder was like microscopic shrapnel, and these are what likely caused the injuries," he said.

 

Habas al-Wahid, head of the emergency room at the Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital, told reporters that the legs of the injured were sliced from their bodies "as if a saw was used to cut through the bone".

 

Testing phase

The Dime is said to be made of a carbon-fibre casing and filled with tungsten powder and explosives. It is likely to be carcinogenic.

A child in a Gaza hospital is still
too ill to return home

 

According to the website globalsecurity.org, the weapon was successfully tested during 2004 and 2005 but is being further developed.

According to Haaretz, the Italian reporters sent samples of the particles found in wounds of the injured in the Gaza Strip to a laboratory at the University of Parma.

 

In the report, Carmela Vaccaio, a doctor at University Parma, said she found a very high concentration of carbon and the presence of unusual materials, such as copper, aluminum and tungsten.

 

"These findings could be in line with the hypothesis that the weapon in question is Dime," Vaccaio said in the report.

The non-governmental organisation, Physicians for Human Rights, has written to Amir Peretz, Israel's defence minister, asking for an explanation of the injuries to Palestinians.