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Israel is targeting Lebanese civilians with white phosphorus, says HRW

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Israeli occupation forces have used white phosphorus munitions in at least 17 municipalities in Lebanon since October 2023, with five instances involving airburst munitions over residential areas, in violation of international humanitarian law.

June 5, 2024 at 12:57 pm

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Israel’s extensive use of white phosphorus in southern Lebanon is endangering civilians and causing the displacement of the population.

According to a report released today by the rights group, Israeli occupation forces have deployed white phosphorus munitions in at least 17 municipalities since October 2023, with five instances involving airburst munitions over residential areas. This is a violation of international humanitarian law.

“Israel’s use of airburst white phosphorus munitions in populated areas indiscriminately harms civilians and has led many to leave their homes,” said Ramzi Kaiss, HRW’s Lebanon researcher.

The group verified these claims through interviews with residents and analysis of photos and videos from the affected regions. The mayor of Boustane reported that two villagers suffered asphyxiation due to white phosphorus smoke during an attack on 15 October.

Dr Tharwat Zahran, a medical toxicologist cited in the report, highlighted the severe health risks posed by white phosphorus, which can cause second and third-degree burns, respiratory damage and potentially fatal complications.

HRW has called for international action to strengthen laws against the use of incendiary weapons and urged Israel to stop using white phosphorus in populated areas. The Israeli army insists that it uses white phosphorus solely for creating smokescreens, not for targeting civilians.

Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health reported that 173 people have been treated for injuries related to white phosphorus exposure since October. HRW’s findings underline the urgent need for Lebanon to enable the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute these incidents.

“Stronger international standards against the use of white phosphorus are needed to ensure these weapons do not continue to endanger civilians,” said Kaiss.

Last month, Al Mayadeen reported that Israeli warplanes fired phosphorus bombs in an area east of Rafah during the occupation state’s offensive in the southern Gaza Strip.

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