Several photos, videos, and claims on social media allege that Israeli forces are using white phosphorous on the civilian population of Gaza.
About White Phosphorous Bombs
- 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 is used in incendiary weapons by militaries around the world for a variety of purposes, such as illuminating targets at night or to inflicting damage on enemies.
- It burns at a temperature of 800°C and spontaneously ignites at up to 1,300 degrees Celsius when it is exposed to oxygen, and producing white, dense smoke, which is used by armies to create smokescreens in sensitive zones.
- White phosphorus can cause fast-moving and widespread fires on the ground.
- Once ignited, the substance is very difficult to put out, as it clings to many surfaces, including skin and clothing.
- Since it is a wax-like substance, it is very hard to remove and often lights up again when the bandages are removed.
- White phosphorus munitions are not banned under international law, but because of their incendiary effects, their use is supposed to be tightly regulated.
- Examples of White Phosphorous usage in wars:
- The British army used it in both World Wars.
- US forces, after invading Iraq, used the chemical weapon against insurgents in the city of Fallujah.
- Israel admitted that it used phosphorus shells during the battle against Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War.
What are incendiary weapons?
- They are weapons or munitions designed to set fire to objects or cause burns or respiratory injuries to people through the action of flame, heat, or a combination thereof, resulting from a chemical reaction of a flammable substance such as napalm or white phosphorus.
- In 1972, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling incendiary weapons a "category of arms viewed with horror."
- The definition in Article 1 of Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons excludes multipurpose munitions, particularly those containing white phosphorus.
- Because white phosphorus has legal uses, shells filled with it are not directly prohibited by international humanitarian law.
Q1: What is Phosphorus ?
Phosphorus is a chemical element with the symbol "P" and atomic number 15. It is a non-metallic element found in the nitrogen group of the periodic table. It has various allotropes, with white phosphorus and red phosphorus being the most common forms. It is an essential element for life and has several important roles and applications.