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