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White Phosphorus Weapons in South Lebanon

 

Background

Media Reports

Government & NGO Reports

Photo Credits

 

Background

 

“Israel has acknowledged for the first time that it attacked Hezbollah targets during the second Lebanon war with phosphorus shells. White phosphorus causes very painful and often lethal chemical burns to those hit by it, and until recently Israel maintained that it only uses such bombs to mark targets or territory. The announcement that the Israel Defense Forces had used phosphorus bombs in the war in Lebanon was made by Minister Jacob Edery, in charge of government-Knesset relations. […] Edery did not specify where and against what types of targets phosphorus munitions were used. During the war several foreign media outlets reported that Lebanese civilians carried injuries characteristic of attacks with phosphorus, a substance that burns when it comes to contact with air. In one CNN report, a casualty with serious burns was seen lying in a South Lebanon hospital. In another case, Dr. Hussein Hamud al-Shel, who works at Dar al-Amal hospital in Ba’albek, said that he had received three corpses ‘entirely shriveled with black-green skin,’ a phenomenon characteristic of phosphorus injuries. […]”

 

Excerpt from a Haaretz article from October 22nd, 2006.

White phosphorus attack on Lebanon

 

The White Phosphorus Trilogy:

 

White Phosphorus Weapons in Iraq

White Phosphorus Weapons in Gaza

White Phosphorus Weapons: FOIA Requests

 

The Video Archive:

 

White Phosphorus Attacks on Gaza - CNN Documentary from January 25th, 2009

White Phosphorus Attack on Falluja - raw footage from CNN from November 2004

 

Media Reports

 

November 8th, 2006 - Phosphorus Shells Used in Lebanon Invasion, UN Says

1 news article from the Independent

 

October 23rd, 2006 - Israel Admits it Used Phosphorus Weapons

1 news article from the Guardian

 

October 22nd, 2006 - Israel Admits Using Phosphorus Bombs during War in Lebanon

2 news articles from Haaretz & BBC News

 

September 30th, 2006 - When Rockets and Phosphorous Cluster

1 news article from Haaretz

 

September 12th, 2006 - IDF Commander: We Fired More than a Million Cluster Bombs

1 news article from Haaretz

 

July 28th, 2006 - Doctors Suspect Chemical Weapons

1 news article from Reuters

 

July 26th, 2006 - Israel Accused of Using Phosphorous Bombs in Lebanon

1 news article from Ma’an News Agency

 

July 25th, 2006 - Civilians Bear Fear, Injuries, Death, Grief

1 news article from the Associated Press

 

July 20th, 2006 - Belgian Doctor: Israel Using Chemical Weapons

1 news article from Expatica

 

 

Government & NGO Reports

 

2007 - Lebanon: Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment

Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (17,5 MB)

 

“[…] White phosphorus (WP)

 

“UNEP investigated the use of white phosphorus (WP) during site visits south of the Litani River. Indications were found that WP-containing artillery shells were used as smoke screens or to mark targets. Some shells with WP signatures were seen in very limited numbers on the open ground close to villages or towns in the region of Bint Jbeil and Marjayoun. Shells containing active white phosphorus were also seen during a visit to the Lebanese Explosive Ordnance Destruction (EOD) site in the south, at the Marjayoun Army Base.

 

“UNEP, together with Lebanese Army experts, recovered one unexploded 8.1 cm light green mortar shell in Deir Mimas, where local residents had reported seeing white smoke plumes in various attacks, as well as the ‘strange’ burning of houses and olive trees. UNEP destroyed the shell with the assistance of Lebanese EOD experts and confirmed that it contained WP. WP-containing 8.1 cm mortar shells were used mainly in UN area number 6 (between the Litani and Awali Rivers). The IDF officially confirmed the use of WP on 21 October 2006.

 

“The environmental impact of the use of WP in Lebanon was limited to the burning of olive trees and houses. However, given that the efficiency of the mortar shells was relatively low, the use of WP has created an EOD problem. Residents of areas where this type of ammunition was used should be made aware of its presence and EOD teams should take the necessary safety precautions when conducting their work. […]”

 

August 2006 - Fatal Strikes/Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon

Report by Human Rights Watch

 

“[…] This report documents serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon between July 12 and July 27, 2006, as well as the July 30 attack in Qana. During this period, the IDF killed an estimated 400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and that number climbed to over 500 by the time this report went to print. The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

 

“Since the start of the conflict, Israeli forces have consistently launched artillery and air attacks with limited or dubious military gain but excessive civilian cost. In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target. In some cases, the timing and intensity of the attack, the absence of a military target, as well as return strikes on rescuers, suggest that Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians.

 

“The Israeli government claims that it targets only Hezbollah, and that fighters from the group are using civilians as human shields, thereby placing them at risk. Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack. Hezbollah occasionally did store weapons in or near civilian homes and fighters placed rocket launchers within populated areas or near U.N. observers, which are serious violations of the laws of war because they violate the duty to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties. However, those cases do not justify the IDF’s extensive use of indiscriminate force which has cost so many civilian lives. In none of the cases of civilian deaths documented in this report is there evidence to suggest that Hezbollah forces or weapons were in or near the area that the IDF targeted during or just prior to the attack.

 

“By consistently failing to distinguish between combatants and civilians, Israel has violated one of the most fundamental tenets of the laws of war: the duty to carry out attacks on only military targets. The pattern of attacks during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon suggests that the failures cannot be explained or dismissed as mere accidents; the extent of the pattern and the seriousness of the consequences indicate the commission of war crimes. […]”

 

July 2006 - Israel/Lebanon: Israel and Hizbullah Must Spare Civilians

Report by Amnesty International USA

 

“[…] In addition to the prohibition on the use of inherently indiscriminate weapons, IHL prohibits weapons that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering (e.g. blinding laser weapons). The use of other weapons is governed by the fundamental principles of IHL. They should not be used to target civilians and should not be used in indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks.

 

“There are reports that Israel has used incendiary weapons, such as white phosphorous shells, in attacks in Lebanon. Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons (a Protocol additional to the 1980 UN Convention on the Prohibition or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons) prohibits the use of such weapons against civilians. And it prohibits making any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by incendiary weapons. According to the ICRC, it is unclear whether this latter rule is customary law.

 

“Israel is not a party to Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons. […]”

 

May 1996 - Civilian Pawns

Report by Human Rights Watch

 

“[…] During the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Israeli shelling of villages in southern Lebanon in July 1993, and subsequent shelling attacks, there have been numerous allegations of Israeli forces using phosphorus against civilians. The available circumstantial evidence of the illegal use of phosphorus, and/or other incendiaries, by Israel against Lebanese civilians during the 1993 events and afterwards is so compelling as to warrant serious investigation and a public response by the Israeli government. The evidence reviewed by Human Rights Watch includes: empty artillery shells, or fragments of artillery shells, with headstamps indicating they had contained phosphorus; eyewitness testimonies of shell attacks which caused what were said to be phosphorus burns; injuries on victims that were consistent with phosphorus burns; hospital reports of treatment of burn injuries consistent with phosphorus burns; doctors’ testimonies of the treatment of what they said were phosphorus burns; an Israeli press report about the use by Israeli forces in Lebanon of phosphorus as a weapon; and other reports of Israel’s alleged use of phosphorus as a weapon in Lebanon.

 

“During research on the July 1993 events, Human Rights Watch obtained testimonies on three incidents in which the use of phosphorus was alleged. Two of these occurred during daylight, the third at night time. It is assumed that daytime use of white phosphorus as a flare or marker is not justified, because smoke would be most effective during the day, whereas white phosphorus is most effective after dark.

 

“The first of these incidents occurred in the village of Kafr Ruman, on the outskirts of Nabatiyeh just underneath SLA/IDF positions, on Monday, July 26. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, Leila Hassan Aloush, 45, decided to walk the short distance from her family’s home to the home of a relative, Munifa Ali Saleh, 51, during a brief lull in the shelling, which had been continuous for most of the day. According to Aloush, she was going down the stairs into the basement of her relative’s house, where the whole family had gathered: ‘At that point, a shell fell near our house, but everybody there was inside the shelter [basement], so no one was hurt. Then a second shell fell near the shelter [basement] that I was just entering. There was an explosion and then smoke: yellow, green, red and black, and then a big flame. I began to choke, and received burns to both my arms and my back. These are not normal burns, but phosphorus burns. My cousin Munifa suffered similar burns, but not as severely. I was taken to the Secours Libanais hospital, where I stayed nine days. Then I was transferred to the Greek Orthodox hospital in Beirut. The doctors have told me that I will need to undergo plastic surgery on my right arm.’

 

“Human Rights Watch was able to ascertain that both women suffered burns to their hands, arms and back. A surgeon at the nearby Secours Populaire Libanais hospital, interviewed separately, claimed he and his colleagues had treated nineteen cases of phosphorus burns during the fourth week of July, including Leila Aloush and Munifa Saleh. In those two particular cases, he said, ‘we removed the phosphorus from the women's skin with pincers. Phosphorus is crystalline and lights up.’ He said that phosphorus was used by Israeli forces ‘to scare people,’ and that it had mostly been used on Monday, July 26. […]

 

“Ms. Aloush showed Human Rights Watch the fragments of a shell which, she claimed, was from the July 1993 attack. After cleaning the fragment, which was the base part of a 155mm artillery shell, Human Rights Watch discovered the following headstamp: RM 0-2-118 1957 155MM M110, which is a standard U.S. designation. The code RM 0-2-118 1957 suggests that the shell was probably made in France or Germany in 1957, while the code M110 indicates that the shell is most likely to have contained white phosphorus. […]”

 

April 23rd, 1996 - Artillery Manual Cannon Gunnery - FM 6-40: Chapter 13/Special Munition

Excerpt of a Field Manual by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps (5,6 MB)

 

“[…] Smoke projectiles are used for smoke screens, obscuring smoke, and marking targets for aircraft.

 

“[…] a. Types. The three types of smoke projectiles areas follows:

 

“(1) Hexachloroethane. Hexachloroethane (HC) smoke (smk) projectiles are available for 105-mm and 155-mm howitzers. They are used for screening, obscuration, spotting, and signaling purposes. The projectile has no casualty-producing effects. This base-ejection projectile is ballistically similar to the HE projectile. It is fitted with a mechanical time fuze M565 or M577. The round expels smoke canisters that emit smoke for a period of 40 to 90 seconds.

 

“(2) Burster-type white phosphorus. White phosphorus projectiles are available for 105-mm and 155-mm howitzers. They are bursting-tube type projectiles that can be fired with point-detonating (PD) or MTSQ fuzes. The projectile has an incendiary-producing effect and is ballistically similar to the HE projectile. Normally, shell WP is employed for its incendiary effect. The projectile also can be used for screening, spotting, and signaling purposes.

 

“(3) M825 white phosphorus. The M825 WP projectile is an FA-delivered 155-mm base-ejection projectile designed to produce a smoke screen on the ground for a duration of 5 to 15 minutes. It consists of two major components--the projectile carrier and the payload. The projectile carrier delivers the payload to the target. The payload consists of 116 WP-saturated felt wedges. The smoke screen is produced when a predetermined fuze action causes ejection of the payload from the projectile. After ejection, the WP-saturated felt wedges in the payload fall to the ground in an elliptical pattern. Each wedge then becomes a point or source of smoke. The M825 is ballistically similar to the M483A1 (DPICM) family of projectiles. […]”

 

White phosphorus shells and its targets

WP projectile

Young boy at hospital

WP victim

 

Photo Credits

 

Background

 

1) A lebanese civilian flees from white phosphorus shells - June/July 2006 - Source unknown;

 

White phosphorus shells and its targets

 

1) A white phosphorus mortar shell was found by UNEP at Deir Mimas. - September/October 2006 - United Nations Environment Programme;

2) Young lebanese boy, hospitalized after WP attack - 2006 - Source unknown;

3) Screenshot from a CNN documentary on the use of white phosphorus by Israeli forces. The documentary was probably broadcasted on July 24th, 2006. The screenshot shows a young boy, who survived a white phosphorus attack. - July 2006 - CNN;

 

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