Did Israel Use White Phosphorus Bombs In Gaza? Is it an Illegal Weapon?

On 11 October, videos alleging Israel's alleged use of white phosphorus bombs on Gaza's civilians emerged.

2 min read

Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam

On 11 October 2023, disturbing content emerged concerning Israel's alleged deployment of white phosphorus bombs on Gaza's civilian population. This event sparked considerable apprehension, given white phosphorus's potent nature and its capacity to cause severe damage. We decode whether the white phosphorous bomb is banned. 


What Is A White Phosphorus Bomb? 

White phosphorus is a solid crystalline material with a waxy texture that darkens upon exposure to light. This hazardous substance appears transparent, ranging from white to yellow. 

Militaries utilise white phosphorus in various ammunition forms due to its incendiary properties, igniting spontaneously when in contact with oxygen in the air. Additionally, it serves as a smoke agent, generating irritating white smoke clouds.

White phosphorus has the ability to kindle rapidly spreading fires on the ground, proving exceptionally challenging to extinguish once ignited. This substance poses grave danger to civilians, inflicting deep tissue and bone burns, and can reignite even after initial treatment.

Are White Phosphorous Bombs Illegal?

According to international laws, white phosphorus shells are prohibited in densely populated civilian areas. However, its use in open spaces as cover for troops is permitted.

While white phosphorus weapons are not explicitly banned, their deployment in civilian areas is deemed a war crime. Human Rights Watch has documented civilian casualties from white phosphorus use in conflict zones like Syria, Afghanistan, and Gaza.


Previous Use of White Phosphorus Bombs by Israel 

A report from Human Rights Watch asserted that Israel extensively employed white phosphorus munitions during the 22-day 'Operation Cast Lead' military campaign in Gaza, spanning from December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009. 

It contended that their utilisation in densely populated neighbourhoods violated international humanitarian law, which mandates precautions to prevent harm to civilians.


Other War Crimes in the Israel-Hamas Conflict 

The ongoing UN investigation into alleged human rights violations in the Israeli-Hamas conflict has indicated "clear evidence that war crimes may have been committed." The Commission of Inquiry emphasised the need to hold accountable all individuals who violated international law and targeted civilians."

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Topics:  Israel   Gaza   Hamas 

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