Washington, Dec 11 (EFE) – The White House said on Monday it was “concerned” and reminded Israel that the white phosphorus munitions it provided could only be used to light up battlefields and not to attack people.
This was said by White House spokesman John Kirby after the Washington Post published that the Israeli army wounded at least nine civilians with the substance in an attack in October in southern Lebanon.
“We’ve seen the reports. Certainly concerned about that. We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more,” Kirby responded when asked about the issue during a press briefing aboard Air Force One.
The spokesman said the only “legitimate military utility” of white phosphorus on the battlefield is to illuminate areas and to create smoke to conceal movement.
“Obviously any time that we provide items like white phosphorous to another military, it is with the full expectation that it will be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes … and in keeping with the law of armed conflict,” Kirby said.
A Washington Post reporter found the remains of three artillery shells containing white phosphorus in Dhiera, a Lebanese town near the border with Israel.
Of the nine wounded in the Israeli attack on Dheira on Oct. 16, at least three were hospitalized, one for days, the newspaper reported.
The daily noted that the batch production codes found on the shells match the nomenclature used by the US Army to classify ammunition manufactured in Louisiana and Arkansas in 1989 and 1992.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder pointed out at a press briefing that the US has not supplied Israel with white phosphorus artillery shells since the start of the Gaza war.
“When it comes to our relationship with Israel, we’ll continue to communicate to them the importance of mitigating civilian harm,” he added.
The spokesman stressed that, according to the Wshington Post report, the artillery shells were from the 1980s and 1990s and that he could not say whether the US supplied them.
The World Health Organization says white phosphorus burns instantly when it comes into contact with oxygen and is often used by the military to illuminate battlefields.
The substance causes deep and severe burns and can even corrode bones, and its smoke is harmful to the eyes and respiratory system.
The exchange of fire between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group began in the wake of the war in the Gaza Strip, in which the Israeli Defence Forces are fightint against Hamas. EFE