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Israel Employed White Phosphorus in Gaza and Lebanon: HRW Report

Human Rights Watch released a damning report on Thursday, accusing Israel of utilizing white phosphorus munitions in its military campaigns in both Gaza and Lebanon. The use of such weaponry, according to the report, places civilians at significant risk of enduring serious and long-term injuries.

In response to these allegations, Israel’s military issued a statement stating, “We are currently not aware of the use of weapons containing white phosphorous in Gaza.” However, they did not address the rights watchdog’s accusations regarding their use in Lebanon.

The backdrop to these allegations is the ongoing conflict, with Israel conducting airstrikes on Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas in southern Israeli towns, which resulted in the tragic loss of at least 1,300 lives. The death toll among Palestinians has surpassed 1,500, and tensions have escalated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

Human Rights Watch claimed to have verified video footage taken on October 10 in Lebanon and on October 11 in Gaza, showing “multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border.” They provided links to two videos posted on social media, which they said depicted “155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles being used, apparently as smokescreens, marking, or signalling,” near the Israel-Lebanon border. However, no video links were provided for their alleged use in Gaza. Palestinian TV channels have aired footage in recent days depicting thin plumes of white smoke in the Gaza sky, which they claim were the result of such munitions, although Reuters could not independently verify these accounts.

It’s worth noting that Israel’s military stated in 2013 that it was phasing out white phosphorus smokescreen munitions, which were used during their 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza and had drawn war crimes allegations from various rights groups. However, it remained unclear whether they would also review the use of weaponized white phosphorus, which is designed to incinerate enemy positions.

White phosphorus munitions have legitimate military uses, such as creating smoke screens, providing illumination, marking targets, or destroying bunkers and buildings. While not banned as a chemical weapon under international conventions due to its legal uses, white phosphorus can cause severe burns and initiate fires. It is considered an incendiary weapon under Protocol III of the Convention on the Prohibition of Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits the use of incendiary weapons against military targets in civilian-populated areas. However, it’s important to note that Israel has not signed this protocol and is not bound by its provisions.


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