What is the white phosphorus that Israel is accused of using in Gaza?

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Source: The post is based on the article “What is the white phosphorus that Israel is accused of using in Gaza?” published in “Al Jazeera” on 17th October 2023

What is the News?

Human Rights Watch (HRW) have said that the Israeli military has recently used white phosphorus munitions in Lebanon and Gaza.

What is White Phosphorus?

Source: Al Jazeera

White phosphorus is a waxy, yellowish-to-clear chemical with a pungent, garlic-like odour. 

It is a highly combustible chemical that burns quickly and brightly when exposed to air. 

It can be deployed through artillery shells, bombs, rockets or grenades.

It is not considered a chemical weapon because it operates primarily by heat and flame rather than toxicity. 

It is used primarily to create a smokescreen at night or during the day to hide the visual movement of troops. 

What harm can white phosphorus cause to humans?

White phosphorus causes severe burns that are slow to heal and are likely to develop infections.

It can also cause dysfunction in multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys and heart.It can also be lethal if inhaled.

Is White Phosphorus banned?

White phosphorus is not explicitly banned by international conventions.

Protocol III of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons prohibits incendiaries or the use of other substances to attack civilian populations.

But to be considered an “incendiary weapon”, an item needs to be “primarily designed” to set fire or cause burns.

However, white phosphorus can also be used as a smokescreen, to signal or to illuminate a target. This allows militaries to argue that its use is not covered by Protocol III.

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