Israel used banned chemical weapon in Gaza: Rights Watch

NEW DELHI | Updated: 13 October, 2023 4:34 pm IST
White Phosphorus is mainly used to signal and track targets, but leaves behind immense suffering

Human Rights Watch officials highlighted that the military operations with white phosphorus were putting civilians of Gaza and Lebanon at “unnecessary risk”

NEW DELHI: The international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli government of employing the banned chemical weapon White Phosphorus on civilians during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Officials from HRW said that the military operations employing the use of the weapon have put the civilians of Gaza and Lebanon at risk of “serious and long-term injuries”. According to the international organisation, videos showing “multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border” had been seen and verified by them.

White phosphorus, which can be used either for marking, signaling, and obscuring, or as a weapon to set fires that burn people and objects, has a significant incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The HRW also observed that the action was in violation of the international humanitarian law that prohibits putting civilians in “unnecessary risk”.


“Any time that white phosphorus is used in crowded civilian areas, it poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering,” said Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “White phosphorous is unlawfully indiscriminate when airburst in populated urban areas, where it can burn down houses and cause egregious harm to civilians.”

According to the HRW, they had reviewed two videos from October 10 that showed 155mm white phosphorus artillery projectiles being used, apparently as smokescreens, marking, or signaling by the Israeli government. Both the videos had emerged from the Israel-Lebanon border.

Israel’s use of white phosphorus comes amid hostilities following Hamas’ deadly attacks on October 7 and subsequent rocket attacks that have killed more than 1,300 Israelis, including hundreds of civilians, and taking scores of Israelis as hostages in violation. However, heavy Israeli bombardment of Gaza in this period has also killed, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, including scores of civilians, and displaced more than 338,000 people.

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