Human rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes by using white phosphorus munitions in its military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, where it has been engaged in a fierce conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah since October 10, 2023.
White phosphorus is a chemical substance that ignites when exposed to oxygen and creates intense heat and thick smoke. It can be used as a smokescreen or a weapon, but it also causes horrific injuries when it comes in contact with people, burning them down to the bone and causing multiple organ failure.
Rights groups said it has verified video and witness accounts that show Israeli forces used white phosphorus in artillery attacks on October 11 and 12, 2023, over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border. The videos show multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus, which spread the incendiary effects over a wider area and increased the risks to civilians in densely populated areas like Gaza.
Israel’s use of white phosphorus has drawn international criticism and outrage, especially as it continues to bombard Gaza from air, land, and sea in an assault that has killed more than 1,500 Palestinians, including at least 500 children, in retaliation for Hamas’ surprise infiltration of Israel and killing of over 1,300 Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The United Nations, the European Union, and several countries have called for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to end the violence.