Friday, April 26, 2013

 

Israel to stop using white phosphorus for smokescreens or... Pass the Red Line?


It was a war crime for Israel to use white phosphorus during its 2008-2009 fighting in Gaza, a rights group alleges. 


The munitions will be replaced in about a year.



JERUSALEM — Israel said Friday it was phasing out white phosphorus smokescreen munitions whose use during its 2008-2009 offensive in the heavily populated Gaza Strip drew war crimes allegations.

Announcing the plan, the Israeli military did not say whether it would also review its use of weaponized white phosphorus, which is designed to incinerate enemy positions.

While legal when fired to mask troop movements on battlefields, white phosphorus smokescreens produce embers and ash that can burn — a risk in urban areas.

The New York-based watchdog group Human Rights Watch said in a 2009 report that Palestinian civilians "needlessly suffered and died" due to Israel's use of the munitions in Gaza.

"Israel's repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes," the group said.

Israel said its military's conduct in Gaza was lawful, though two senior army officers were eventually reprimanded for a strike near a U.N. compound that involved smokescreen shells.

Such shells "are to be removed from active duty soon" and replaced by Israeli-developed alternatives to white phosphorus "based completely on gas" around a year from now, the military statement said Friday, without giving details.

During the Gaza fighting, Israel said troops also fired mortar rounds with white phosphorus warheads to clear brush around trenches used by Palestinian gunmen.


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