IDF to stop using phosphorus for smokescreens

ByREUTERS
April 26, 2013 11:27

Chemical to be replaced with Israeli-developed alternatives; smoke-screening permitted under international humanitarian law.

1 minute read.



White phosphorus bombs exploding over Gaza city

White phosphorus bombs exploding over Gaza city . (photo credit:REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

Israel is phasing out white phosphorus munitions whose use to create smokescreens during its 2008-2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip drew international criticism, the IDF said on Friday.

The army statement did not say whether Israel also planned to review its use of weaponized white phosphorus, which is designed to incinerate enemy positions.

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While legal when fired to mask troop movements on battlefields, white phosphorus poses a fire risk. Images of its embers and ash endangering Palestinian civilians prompted Israel to rethink its use. One army general was eventually disciplined over misuse of the munitions in Gaza.

"Israel's repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes," the group said.

Smokescreen artillery shells containing white phosphorus "are to be removed from active duty soon" and replaced by Israeli-developed alternatives "based completely on gas" around a year from now, the IDF said, without giving details.

During the Gaza fighting, Israel said troops fired mortar rounds with white phosphorus warheads to clear brush around trenches used by Palestinian gunmen.

At the time, Human Rights Watch said Israel appeared to be using white phosphorus to hide military operations, as permitted in principle under international humanitarian law.

"However, white phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire," the New York-based organization said.

"The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza's high population density, among the highest in the world," it added, calling on the IDF to stop using the munitions.

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