Videos emerged on social media last week that showed Israeli forces using white phosphorus in their bombing campaign over Gaza.
The Washington Post, which verified the video as legitimate, reported that Human Rights Watch also confirmed an airburst of 155mm white phosphorus artillery was used in strikes on Wednesday. The paper noted that the chemical is highly flammable and can severely burn civilians.
The paper cited an opinion written for the International Committee of the Red Cross that there are cases where white phosphorus can be used by a military, but not within concentrations of civilians. These incendiaries are indiscriminate and can inflict horrific injuries.
These weapons are used to create smoke screens, set fire to enemy positions, and add light to a battlefield, The Moscow Times reported when Russia was accused of using white phosphorus in Ukraine. Phosphorus burns at 800 degrees Celsius, burning to the bone if it comes into contact with human skin, the report said.
“White phosphorus burns are nasty because they’re not a traditional fire, so if you add water it can actually make it worse,” Brian Castner, a war crimes investigator for Amnesty International specializing in bombs and bullets, told the paper.
This is not the first time Israel used white phosphorus against forces in Gaza. The Post’s report noted that Israel used the chemical during its 2008-2009 campaign, in violation of International Humanitarian Law. Gaza is just 25 miles long and seven and a half miles at its widest part.
Israel has conducted a major military campaign in Gaza after what has been called a surprise attack by Hamas fighters that killed hundreds of Israelis and resulted in the taking of over 100 hostages—including some Americans.
Amir Ahmed, an ambulance driver in Gaza, told The New York Times that conditions on the ground are like a “nightmare.” He said when he arrives at the scene of an Israeli strike, people are often in shock and implore him and his team to race into the rubble to retrieve their children.
“Sometimes we don’t pull out anyone alive,” he told the paper. “We pull them all out dead.”
Pulling out Palestinians who are still alive poses its own problems because the working hospitals in Gaza are dealing with overcrowding, the lack of medications and equipment, and an energy crisis because of an Israeli blockade. (The Times noted that even before the war, electricity in Gaza was just available for a few hours a day.)
Volker Turk, the UN’s high commissioner for Human Rights, said the siege that has been imposed by Israel was prohibited under international humanitarian law, according to The Times. He said the blockade will only make matters worse there.
TRENDPOST: Israel is not hiding from the fact that its leadership wants to punish the Palestinians. The Times noted that commanders in Israel have said that there has been a “change of paradigm.”
“We need to use different language and different terminology regarding our assault activities in Gaza,” Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said, according to the paper. “This is not like previous rounds.”
While the U.S. and U.K. have essentially given Israel the green light, major world powers have warned Israel against going too far.
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said Israel’s actions in Gaza have gone “beyond the scope of self-defense,” according to the AFP. He said the Israeli government must “cease its collective punishment of the people of Gaza.”
The report said he made the comment during a call with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan. He said, “all parties should not take any action to escalate the situation and should return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”