Rain of Fire: White Phosphorous in Gaza


In their report published today, the Human Rights Watch declares in Gaza the IDF air-burst white phosphorus in at least three unlawful ways:

  1. In densely populated areas hitting homes, hospitals and UN compounds where civilians were taking shelter.
  2. On the edges of populated areas therefore not taking all feasible precautions during military operations to minimize civilian harm.
  3. In open areas along the boundary separating Israel and Gaza, although Human Rights Watch was not able to investigate the extend of the destruction because of the security concerns prohibiting to travel to the area.

White phosphorus munitions are not illegal if they are used properly in open areas, but the Human Rights Watch report “concludes that the IDF repeatedly exploded it unlawfully over populated neighborhoods, killing and wounding civilians and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse, and a hospital.”

Israel first denied its use of white phosphorus in Gaza. However, facing mounting evidence to the contrary, it declared it was using all weapons in compliance with international law but announced an internal investigation into possible improper white phosphorus use.

All of the white phosphorus shells that Human Rights Watch found were manufactured in the United States in 1989 and 1991.

The Human Rights Watch report concluded that the IDF had deliberately or recklessly used white phosphorus munitions in violation of the laws of war: “First, the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus in populated areas until the last days of the operation reveals a pattern or policy of conduct rather than incidental or accidental usage. Second, the IDF was well aware of the effects of white phosphorus and the dangers it poses to civilians. Third, the IDF failed to use safer available alternatives for smokescreens.”

The Human Rights Watch report also reminds the international community that “The laws of war obligate states to investigate impartially allegations of war crimes” and calls for a serious international investigation and the prosecution as appropiate of those who ordered or carried out unlawful attacks using white phosphorus munitions.

Please check this if you want to watch the documentary Rain of Fire: White Phosphorous in Gaza and here if you want to download the report in English (PDF, 6.08 MB).

This 71-page report provides witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school. The report also presents ballistics evidence, photographs, and satellite imagery, as well as documents from the Israeli military and government.

This 71-page report provides witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school. The report also presents ballistics evidence, photographs, and satellite imagery, as well as documents from the Israeli military and government.

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