Videos showing a white substance falling from the sky over Gaza have sparked allegations that Israel is using banned incendiary weapons in its military campaign against Hamas.
The Source of the Videos Allegedly Showing Israel Using White Phosphorus Bombs on Gaza
This week several videos emerged online showing what appeared to be a white chemical falling from explosions over Gaza, further fueling the allegations against Israel that it is using white phosphorus bombs in its military campaign against Hamas.
The videos were released by The Ministry, a Palestinian media outlet, to show the alleged white phosphorus attack on Gaza. However, the authenticity of the footage has not been verified, so it is still unclear whether it is real or fake.
What Does White Phosphorus Do to the Human Body?
White phosphorus is a chemical substance that ignites when exposed to oxygen, and creates intense heat and thick smoke. It can be used for military purposes as a smokescreen or a weapon, but it also inflicts horrific injuries when it comes in contact with people or the environment.
White phosphorus causes severe burns, often down to the bone, that are slow to heal and likely to develop infections. It can also cause respiratory damage, organ failure, and death. White phosphorus fires can also destroy civilian structures and property, damage crops, and kill livestock.
Is White Phosphorus Considered a Chemical Weapon?
White phosphorus is not classified as a chemical weapon, but its use in densely populated areas is widely considered a war crime and a violation of international humanitarian law.
According to Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW), which regulates incendiary weapons, states parties are prohibited from using air-delivered incendiary weapons against civilians or civilian objects, and from using ground-delivered incendiary weapons in concentrations of civilians, unless the military objective is clearly separated from civilians.
Israel is not a party to Protocol III, but it is bound by customary international law and the Geneva Conventions, which require parties to the conflict to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.
This is not the first time that Israel has been accused of using white phosphorus bombs in Gaza. In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented Israel’s extensive use of white phosphorus in Gaza, which resulted in at least 12 civilian deaths and dozens of injuries.
HRW also found evidence of Israel’s use of white phosphorus in Lebanon in 2006. In both cases, Israel initially denied or downplayed its use of white phosphorus, but later admitted it and promised to restrict its future use.
In response to the latest allegations, the Israeli military said on Friday that it has made no use of white phosphorus in its Gaza war this week. “The current accusation made against the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] regarding the use of white phosphorus in Gaza is unequivocally false,” it said in a statement. However, some experts have cast doubt on Israel’s denial, saying that the videos show signs of white phosphorus munitions, such as airbursts, felt wedges, and garlic smell.
The controversy over Israel’s alleged use of white phosphorus bombs in Gaza highlights the need to reexamine the status and adequacy of Protocol III of the CCW, which has been criticized for being too weak and vague.
Some advocates have called for a complete ban on white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon, or at least a stronger regulation that applies to all types of delivery systems and all situations where civilians are at risk.
They have also urged states to join Protocol III and comply with its provisions, as well as to monitor and report any violations by other parties.
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, with no sign of a ceasefire or a diplomatic solution, the fate of millions of civilians in Gaza and Israel hangs in the balance.