US ‘concerned’ about reports that Israel used white phosphorus in Lebanon attack

Phosphorus

WASHINGTON: The United States is concerned about reports that Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus munitions in an attack carried out in southern Lebanon in October, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said on Monday (local time).

Speaking to reporters while en route to Philadelphia, John Kirby said the US will be asking questions to get more details about it. He stressed that the US provides material like white phosphorus to another military with the full expectation that it will be used for legitimate purposes and in keeping with the law of armed conflict.

Asked about reports claiming that Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus munitions in October attack in Lebanon, Kirby said, “We’ve seen the reports. Certainly concerned about that. We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more. I do think it’s important to remind that white phosphorus does have a legitimate military utility in terms of illumination and producing smoke to conceal movements.”

“And obviously, anytime that we provide items like white phosphorus to another military, it is with the full expectation that it will be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes and in keeping with the law of armed conflict. But we’ve seen these reports. They’re fresh. Just don’t have any more on it right now,” he added.

Kirby made the remarks in response to The Washington Post report that claimed that US-supplied white phosphorus munitions were used in an October attack in southern Lebanon. The attack had injured at least nine civilians in what a rights group says should be investigated as a war crime, The Washington Post reported citing its analysis of shell fragments found in a small village.

A journalist working for The Washington Post found remnants of three 155-millimeter artillery rounds fired into Dheira, near the border of Israel. The rounds that eject felt wedges saturated with white phosphorous that burn at high temperatures produce billowing smoke to obscure troop movements as they fall haphazardly over a wide area, The Washington Post reported.

Reacting to The Washington Post’s report, the Israel Defence Forces said that it “only uses legal weaponry.” It said that the shells used by the IDF do not contain white phosphorus, which are legal as per international law, The Times of Israel reported.

“The main smoke shells used by the IDF do not contain white phosphorus. Similar to many Western armies, the IDF also has smoke shells that contain white phosphorus, which are legal according to international law, and the choice to use them is influenced by operational considerations and availability compared to alternatives,” the IDF said.

“These shells are intended for smokescreens, and not for an attack or ignition, and they are not legally defined as incendiary weapons,” it added, The Times of Israel reported.

The IDF said that under its existing procedures, white phosphorus shells are not to be utilised in urban regions, “except in certain exceptional cases.” It said, “These restrictions are in line with international law, and are even stricter than [the latter],” The Times of Israel reported.

Since October 7, tension has flared along the border between Lebanon and Israel amid exchanges of gunfire between Israeli forces and Hezbollah. The tensions between two sides started amid Israel’s counter-offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, followed by cross-border attack by terror group Hamas. (ANI)

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