The Allegations of White Phosphorus Use by Israel in Lebanon
The White House has said it will be “asking questions” after allegations that Israel fired US-made white phosphorus munitions at a town in Lebanon while fighting the militant group Hezbollah. The Washington Post reported on Monday that it had recovered remnants of artillery rounds from Dheira, near the border of Israel, that bear markings and production codes consistent with white phosphorous rounds made in the US. The attack resulted in nine people being injured and at least four homes being incinerated. These allegations have sparked concern and brought into question the use of white phosphorus in military operations, particularly in populated civilian areas. The impact of white phosphorus on its victims can be devastating, causing severe injuries such as respiratory damage, organ failure, and difficult-to-treat burns. International outcry and calls for war crime prosecutions have arisen in response to similar allegations in the past. The United States expressed its concern over the claims, emphasizing the importance of the legitimate use of white phosphorous in accordance with the law of armed conflict. However, the Pentagon has yet to verify whether the weapons used were US-supplied, highlighting the need for further investigation into the matter.
Concerns and Responses
The use of white phosphorous in populated civilian areas has raised serious concerns globally. The US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby has stated that the United States is “concerned” about the claims and will be asking questions to learn more about the situation. He also emphasized the legitimate military utility of white phosphorus but stressed the importance of its use in accordance with international law. Similarly, Pentagon spokesperson Major General Pat Ryder highlighted the ongoing communication with Israel regarding the importance of minimizing civilian harm in military operations. Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant defended Israel’s actions, asserting that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the entire security establishment abide by international law. However, the accusations have led to international pressure on Israel to halt the use of white phosphorus, especially in populated areas, in order to prevent further endangerment of civilians.
The Impact on Lebanon and International Response
At least 94 people have been killed in Lebanon since the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, following the war in Gaza, escalated. Dheira, a town near the border with Israel, has been used as a staging ground for attacks by Hezbollah, further heightening tensions in the region. The Palestinian foreign ministry has previously accused Israel of using white phosphorus bombs against civilians in populated areas in Gaza. The use of white phosphorus has prompted Amnesty International to call for an investigation as a possible war crime, denouncing the Israeli army’s indiscriminate use of the substance in violation of international humanitarian law. The rights group has urged Israel to abide by its commitment to stop using white phosphorous weapons, emphasizing the need to protect the lives of civilians in Lebanon.