The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused Israel of using white phosphorus munitions in its recent military operations in Gaza and Lebanon, highlighting the potential danger to civilians. The rights watchdog’s allegations have stirred controversy and concerns about the consequences of such actions.

In response to these accusations, Israel’s military claimed it was “currently not aware of the use of weapons containing white phosphorous in Gaza.” However, they did not offer any comment on the HRW’s allegations regarding the use of these munitions in Lebanon.

The conflict escalated as a response to a Hamas attack on Israeli towns, resulting in significant casualties. This week alone, at least 1,300 people have lost their lives due to the ongoing violence, with over 1,500 Palestinians killed. The situation has also prompted tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.The HRW has supported its claims with video evidence from Lebanon and Gaza, recorded on October 10 and 11, which shows “multiple airbursts of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border.”The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas such as Gaza has raised concerns as it can cause serious burns and set structures, fields, and other civilian objects on fire. Lama Fakih, the Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW, highlighted, “Any time that white phosphorus is used in crowded civilian areas, it poses a high risk of excruciating burns and lifelong suffering.””White phosphorous is unlawfully indiscriminate when airburst in populated urban areas, where it can burn down houses and cause egregious harm to civilians.”White phosphorus ignites when exposed to atmospheric oxygen and continues to burn until it is deprived of oxygen or exhausted. Its chemical reaction can create intense heat (about 815°C/1,500°F), light, and smoke, the report said.White phosphorus, upon contact, has the potential to cause severe burns, both thermally and chemically, penetrating deep into the body due to its high fat solubility, it stated. Fragments of white phosphorus can further aggravate injuries, persisting even after medical treatment and possibly entering the bloodstream, resulting in multiple organ failure. In some cases, previously treated wounds can re-ignite when exposed to oxygen after dressings are removed. Even relatively minor burns from white phosphorus can often prove fatal. Survivors may experience extensive scarring that tightens muscle tissue, resulting in physical disabilities. Beyond the physical consequences, survivors also endure the trauma of the attack, painful treatment, and the lasting impact of disfiguring scars, which can lead to psychological distress and social isolation.While white phosphorus munitions have legitimate uses, using them in densely populated civilian areas may violate international humanitarian law. This is not the first time Israel has faced accusations of using white phosphorus in Gaza, as similar incidents occurred in 2008-2009, resulting in civilian casualties and international criticism.Hamas initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, a multi-pronged surprise attack on Israel involving rocket launches and infiltrations via land, sea, and air as part of retaliation for the alleged storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem and escalating violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers.Israel responded with Operation Swords of Iron, targeting Hamas within the Gaza Strip. The situation has worsened as Israel has cut water and electricity supplies to Gaza, further straining the already difficult living conditions for the residents.Israel has vowed to defend itself vigorously against the Hamas attacks, and the conflict shows no sign of abating. 

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