Lebanon accuses Israel of white phosphorus attacks

AFP , Tuesday 31 Oct 2023

Lebanon on Tuesday accused Israel of attacks that it said it would file a complaint to the UN over, with a minister alleging the incendiary weapon had burned 40,000 olive trees.

 Israeli artillery explode over Dahaira
File Photo: Shells that appears to be white phosphorus from Israeli artillery explode over Dahaira, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, on Oct. 16, 2023. AP

 

Rights groups and Lebanese officials have repeatedly accused Israel of using the weapon, which can cause serious burns if it hits people.

"I instructed the Lebanese mission to the UN to submit a new complaint to the Security Council to condemn Israel's use of white phosphorus in repeated attacks on Lebanon," Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said.

In a statement, Bou Habib also accused Israel of "deliberately burning Lebanese groves and forests".

Since Palestinian fighters launched an unprecedented offensive on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, Lebanon's southern border has seen tit-for-tat exchanges between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah, a Hamas ally.

The skirmishes have killed at least 62 people in Lebanon according to an AFP tally, mostly Hezbollah combatants but also four civilians, including a Reuters journalist.

Israel said eight people were killed, including soldiers and civilians.

Israeli attacks have also set olive groves and greenery ablaze in the border area, with at least one fire still raging in Lebanon's south on Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister Abbas Al Hajj Hassan said Israeli white phosphorus strikes burnt down 40,000 olive trees in Lebanon's south.

His ministry found in a preliminary survey that "128 fires resulted from the Israeli enemy’s phosphorus bombing of our regions", he told AFP.

Phosphorus, a substance that catches fire on contact with the air, is used to create smokescreens to hide troop movements, illuminate the battlefield or destroy buildings by fire.

It falls under the 1983 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which restricts incendiary weapons without banning their use altogether.

While the convention outlaws their use against civilians and non-military targets as well as their deployment against military targets near civilians, it does not cover deployment for smokescreening or battlefield illumination.

Earlier Tuesday, Amnesty International released an investigation saying it had "evidence of Israel's unlawful use of white phosphorus" in south Lebanon between October 10 and 16.

"One attack on the town of Dhayra on 16 October must be investigated as a war crime because it was an indiscriminate attack that injured at least nine civilians... and was therefore unlawful," the group added.

Human Rights Watch also accused Israel of using white phosphorus in Gaza and Lebanon earlier this month.

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