Army in response to white phosphorus report: IDF only uses legal weaponry

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

In response to a report by the Washington Post earlier today, which says the IDF used white phosphorus shells during an attack in southern Lebanon, the military says, “The IDF only uses legal weaponry.”

“The main smoke shells used by the IDF do not contain white phosphorus. Similar to many Western armies, the IDF also has smoke shells that contain white phosphorus, which are legal according to international law, and the choice to use them is influenced by operational considerations and availability compared to alternatives,” the IDF says.

“These shells are intended for smokescreens, and not for an attack or ignition, and they are not legally defined as incendiary weapons,” it continues.

The IDF says that under its existing procedures, white phosphorus shells are not to be used in urban areas, “except in certain exceptional cases.”

“These restrictions are in line with international law, and are even stricter than [the latter],” the IDF says.

The Washington Post report wrongly claims Israel pledged in 2013 to stop using white phosphorus, while in fact the military said it would limit the use, largely moving to use other means to create smokescreens for troops. However, it has reserved the right to use such shells in certain, undisclosed cases that have been approved by the Supreme Court (the uses were not detailed to the public for reasons of security).

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