Civilians Suffer As Israel Deploys White Phosphorus in South Lebanon

Civilians Suffer As Israel Deploys White Phosphorus in South Lebanon

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Israel's continued use of white phosphorus munitions in south Lebanon is causing severe harm to civilians and the environment, as detailed in a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The report, released on Wednesday, states that these attacks are "putting civilians at grave risk" and "contributing to displacement."

According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 92,600 people have been displaced from their villages in south Lebanon since October 6.

“Israel’s use of airburst white phosphorus munitions in populated areas indiscriminately harms civilians and has led many to leave their homes,” said Ramzi Kaiss, Lebanon researcher at HRW.

HRW's investigation verified the use of white phosphorus munitions by the Israeli military in at least 17 municipalities across south Lebanon since October 2023, including Kfar Kila, Meiss el-Jabal, Boustane, Markaba, and Aita al-Shaab.

White phosphorus injuries are severely painful and necrotic, with oxides that can reignite in the skin unless burns are immediately covered to prevent exposure to oxygen. Symptoms include severe respiratory problems, acute lung injury, severe eye damage, and second or third-degree burns.

The Lebanese Ministry of Public Health reported at least 173 injuries from white phosphorus exposure between October and late May, including cases of civilians hospitalized for asphyxiation on October 15.

An investigation by Al Jazeera in March revealed that Israel's use of white phosphorus aims to create a buffer zone by making the region uninhabitable and uncultivable. Agriculture constitutes up to 80 percent of south Lebanon’s GDP, according to the United Nations.

Al Jazeera reported that Israel dropped 117 phosphoric bombs on southern Lebanon, affecting at least 32 towns and villages between October and March, covering nearly the entirety of Lebanon’s 100km (62-mile) southern border.

Israel's repeated use of white phosphorous have drawn international condemnation. On March 19, Oxfam and HRW urged the Biden administration to "immediately suspend arms transfers to Israel."

HRW's report calls for stronger international laws on incendiary weapons, stating, “Israel’s widespread use of white phosphorus in south Lebanon highlights the need for stronger international law on incendiary weapons.”

The report also urged Lebanon to file a declaration with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to enable an investigation and prosecution of "grave international crimes" on Lebanese territory since October 2023. However, Lebanon recently retracted a statement that it would grant the ICC jurisdiction to investigate Israeli war crimes, following a caretaker government vote in April to do so.

Historically, Israel has used white phosphorus in Lebanon, notably during the 1982 invasion and the recent conflicts since October 7. Mohammad Hussein, head of South Lebanon’s Agricultural Union, noted, “The Israeli army targeted civilians with white phosphorus in the 1982 invasion, and since October 7, there has been a lot of white phosphorus used on forests, plantations, olive and fruit trees.”

Israel's previous use of white phosphorus during the 2008-09 Gaza offensive led to accusations of war crimes. In response, the Israeli military stated it would use white phosphorus as smokescreen munitions in built-up areas, with unspecified exceptions.

“Stronger international standards against the use of white phosphorus are needed to ensure these weapons do not continue to endanger civilians,” Kaiss said. “Israel’s recent use of white phosphorus in Lebanon should motivate other countries to take immediate action toward this goal.”

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