In recent years, there have been alarming reports by various organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Time, regarding the alleged unlawful use of white phosphorus by Israel in southern Lebanon and Gaza.
The use of this substance in densely populated areas raises serious concerns about the violation of international humanitarian law, putting civilians at risk of severe and long-term injuries. This article will delve into the details of these reports and shed light on the implications of using white phosphorus in warfare.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have presented compelling evidence suggesting that Israel has utilized white phosphorus in its military operations in Gaza and Lebanon.
According to Amnesty International, the use of white phosphorus resulted in massive fires, engulfing houses and land areas and leaving remnants that can reignite when exposed to air. Such actions, in densely populated regions, directly violate international humanitarian law, which aims to protect civilians during armed conflicts.
White Phosphorus - a war crime
Human Rights Watch, in response to these alarming reports, has advocated for a complete ban on the use of "airburst" white phosphorus munitions in populated areas without any exceptions. These calls are justified given the high risk to civilians and the long-term effects of white phosphorus exposure.
The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons also prohibits the use of weapons primarily designed to set fire to objects or cause burn injuries against civilians. Therefore, the use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas goes against established international laws.
In 2013, in response to a petition to Israel's High Court of Justice, the Israeli military stated that it would no longer use white phosphorus in populated areas, except in two narrowly defined situations that were disclosed only to the justices.
This acknowledgement reflects the seriousness of the issue and the need for stricter regulations regarding the use of white phosphorus in warfare. While white phosphorus munitions themselves are considered lawful weapons, their misuse, especially targeting civilians or launching indiscriminate attacks, is a stark violation of international laws.
Severe burns - intentionally caused
The utilization of white phosphorus in densely populated areas poses significant risks to civilians. Its high-temperature burning properties can cause severe burns and have long-term health effects on survivors.
Human Rights Watch has verified videos and interviews in which witnesses describe observing airbursts of white phosphorus munitions in Gaza City and along the Israel-Lebanon border.
These munitions can shower large areas with white phosphorus, leading to the destruction of civilian structures, property damage, and harm to crops and livestock. The consequences of such actions have generated international and domestic outrage.