TechDid Israel use forbidden weapons? White phosphorus falls from the sky

Did Israel use forbidden weapons? White phosphorus falls from the sky

Ammunition with white phosphorus.
Ammunition with white phosphorus.
Images source: © X | Human Rights Watch
ed. NGA

10:22 AM EDT, October 13, 2023

As noted by the human rights organization, Human Right Watch (HRW), the Israeli army has begun to use white phosphorus shells. The soldiers are said to have used them to shell the port in the city of Gaza. White phosphorus is a highly toxic substance, the use of which is prohibited by the Geneva Convention.

PAP reports that the online published recordings from the Gaza attack have been verified and should be treated as authentic. They depict two 155 mm caliber artillery shells exploding in the air. As a result, white phosphorus ignites, leading to the appearance of characteristic white lines for this compound in the sky. Later, dense smoke appears - claims the "Washington Post" newspaper's website, which published a photo and recording of the attack.

The Israeli armed forces have declared that they "currently have no knowledge" about the use of such weaponry against targets of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The utilization of phosphorus shells by the Israelis wouldn't be anything new, because - according to the HRW report - the Israeli military has already used this ammunition in the Gaza Strip during a 22-day military operation, Operation Cast Lead, at the turn of 2008 and 2009. These attacks resulted in casualties among the civilian population - reminded the American newspaper.

"In each case, when white phosphorus is used in densely populated areas, this is associated with the risk of very serious burns and suffering (for civilians) for the rest of their lives" - emphasized Lama Fakih, the director of HRW office in Lebanon's capital Beirut, coordinating the organization's activity in the Middle East and North Africa.

White phosphorus shells

White phosphorus is generally the most active allotropic variant of the said element. The lethal dose of this highly toxic substance for an adult is approximately 0.00353 ounces. Burns from white phosphorus are associated with the risk of death due to the absorption of poisonous gases by the body. This is a process that exhausts the liver, kidneys, and heart.

The compound is characterized by rapid oxidation (reacting with air and instantly creating fumes composed of phosphorus (V) oxide, aka. phosphorus pentoxide) and heating up to a temperature of 2,342 degrees Fahrenheit. The process of emitting toxic smoke lasts as long as all phosphorus particles burn out or are deprived of oxygen by external factors.

It's worth emphasizing that falling fragments of a white phosphorus-based projectile from the sky can stick to anything they encounter on their path and can even ignite in contact with water (including underwater). This is particularly dangerous because in a populated area, falling phosphorus fragments can "stick" to a person, and the only way to save them in this case is to cut out the burning piece of the body. If extinguished fragments get into the body, there's a risk of reignition due to exposure to oxygen.

According to the Geneva Convention, the use of weapons containing white phosphorus is prohibited, and the only permissible form is the use of a tool for smoke screening or illumination. Due to the ban, this compound is exclusively used for the production of tools that generate smoke screens or lighting.

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