As the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2023 escalates, concerns are being raised about military methods used in past conflicts in the region. One worry is over Israel’s alleged use of white phosphorus in the Gaza Strip.
The ICC Investigation and Israel’s Siege
In 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) initiated an investigation into claims of Israeli war crimes in the Palestinian territories under occupation. This probe included incidents from as far back as 2014, during Israel’s significant assault on Gaza. Despite peace agreements, Israel persisted with its sieges of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and a 14-year blockade of Gaza, actions that drew international condemnation.
In the aftermath of Israel’s 2008-2009 military operations in Gaza, both the United Nations and Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using artillery shells filled with white phosphorus in heavily populated civilian areas.
The Controversy Surrounding White Phosphorus
White phosphorus is a potent weapon with devastating effects on humans. It can melt through skin down to the bone within seconds upon contact. Injuries can be worsened by the release of toxic phosphoric acid into wounds. Consequently, international law, specifically a protocol of the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, bans its use against civilians or in airstrikes on enemy forces in civilian areas.
Israel acknowledged the use of the gas, but claimed it was in “a small amount,” and pledged to remove it from active service.
The Historical Impact of White Phosphorus in Global Conflicts
White phosphorus has a long history in global conflicts, from World Wars I and II to its use by the U.S. in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, and by Russia in Chechnya. Even the British Army reportedly used it in Argentina.
Watch the video by TRT World from 2021 below: