HRW suspects Israeli military used white phosphorous in Gaza not as a smokescreen but as an incendiary weapon

Israel’s recent use of white phosphorus bombs in densely populated areas of Gaza violated the rules of war, according to a leading human rights organization. Human Rights Watch said that even before its researchers were able to enter Gaza, they had watched from adjacent perimeter areas in Israel as white phosphorus bombs exploded in the air over densely-packed residential areas in the Gaza Strip.

Human Rights Watch said that Israeli troops began using white phosphorus in Gaza after the ground phase of the military offensive started on January 3rd, a week into Operation Cast Lead, and continued until the cease-fire two weeks later.

The IDF was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the extreme danger it poses to civilians, Human Rights Watch said. According to the human rights group, if the IDF actually intended to use white phosphorus for its obscurant effect, it could only have done so lawfully in open areas, and not in downtown Gaza City, or downtown Beit Lahiya.

HRW said that far safer alternatives are available – such as the very effective smoke artillery manufactured in Israel, that does not burn.

Ground-exploded white phosphorous creates a much thicker and more effective smokescreen than shells detonated in the air, the group said, but that was not the tactic Israeli troops employed.

Moreover, in the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, there was no military necessity to create smokescreens because there were no Israeli troops on the ground in those areas at the time.
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