Human Rights Watch has alleged that Israel employed white phosphorus munitions in its military campaigns in both Gaza and Lebanon.
The human rights organisation emphasised that Israel’s deployment of such weapons poses a severe threat to the safety of civilians, and can potentially cause significant and long-lasting injuries.
Human Rights Watch, as per a Reuters report, claimed to have verified the authenticity of videos captured in Lebanon on October 10 and in Gaza on October 11. These videos reportedly depict “multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border.”
The organisation further shared links to two videos that were circulated on social media platforms, asserting that these videos showcase the use of “155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles, seemingly for the purpose of creating smokescreens, marking, or signalling.” Both videos show scenes near the border shared by Israel and Lebanon, said Human Rights Watch.
However, as per Reuters, the group did not provide links to videos showing their alleged use in Gaza.
Israel denies accusation
Reuters reports that when asked for comments on the Human Rights Watch’s accusations, the Israeli military said it was “currently not aware of the use of weapons containing white phosphorus in Gaza.”
However, the military made no mention of the allegations of the weapon’s use in Lebanon.
What are white phosphorus munitions?
White phosphorus refers to weaponised phosphorus, which, as per Reuters, is used to incinerate enemy positions.
Its use on the battlefield is legal for the purposes of making smoke screens, generating illumination, marking targets or burning bunkers and buildings.
Because of its legal uses, international conventions don’t ban its use as a chemical weapon. However, white phosphorus is known to cause serious burns and spark fires.
It is considered an incendiary weapon under Protocol III of the Convention on the Prohibition of Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, which prohibits its use against military targets located among civilians. However, Israel has not signed this protocol and is not bound by its provisions.
Previously, in 2013, Israel’s military announced plans to phase out the use of white phosphorus smokescreen munitions. It had used the munitions during the 2008-2009 offensive in Gaza, this had drawn allegations of war crimes from several rights organisations.