BEIRUT/GAZA CITY (The Thursday Times) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised concerns over Israel’s use of white phosphorus in military operations conducted in Gaza and Lebanon, deeming the actions as posing grave risks to civilian populations. The rights organisation has based its assertions on verified video and witness accounts, pinpointing the military activities on October 10 and 11, 2023. Multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus were recorded over Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The use of white phosphorus, a substance that can function either as a marker, signal, obscurant, or a weapon to ignite fires, is particularly concerning due to its devastating incendiary effect. When exposed to atmospheric oxygen, white phosphorus ignites, and continues to burn until deprived of oxygen or exhausted, which results in severe burns to people and can ignite structures, fields, and other civilian objects. Given the densely populated nature of Gaza, the risks to civilians are exacerbated, and the use of such a substance violates the international humanitarian law prohibition on putting civilians at unnecessary risk.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has accused Israel of using banned weapons on Gaza, corroborated by a video showing the aftermath of a strike involving the incendiary substance. Other news outlets also resonated with HRW’s findings, pointing out the indiscriminate nature of white phosphorus munitions and their long-term detrimental effects on both individuals and infrastructure.
The Israeli military, however, has continued to deny allegations regarding the use of white phosphorus in Gaza.