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A human rights group accuses Israel of bombing residential buildings with white phosphorus in Lebanon

A human rights group accuses Israel of bombing residential buildings with white phosphorus in Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) — A global human rights organization accused Israel of using incendiary white phosphorus shells on residential buildings in at least five towns and villages in conflict-stricken south Lebanon, potentially harming civilians and violating international law, in a report published Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch said in its report that there is no evidence of burn injuries due to white phosphorus in Lebanon, but researchers “heard accounts indicating possible damage to the respiratory system.”

Human rights advocates say that firing controversial munitions into populated areas is a crime under international law.

The white hot chemical can set buildings on fire and burn human flesh to the bone. Survivors are at risk of infection and organ or respiratory failure, even if their burns are small.

The Israeli military told The Associated Press that it adheres to international law regarding munitions and the use of white phosphorus, and is using the chemical only as a smokescreen, and not to target civilians. The statement added, “IDF procedures require that such shells not be used in densely populated areas, subject to some exceptions.”

The Human Rights Watch report includes interviews with eight residents in conflict-stricken south Lebanon, and the group says it has verified and geolocated images from approximately 47 photos and videos showing white phosphorus shells falling on residential buildings in five Lebanese border towns and villages.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health says that at least 173 people needed medical care after being exposed to white phosphorus.

The researchers found that the controversial incendiary materials were used in residential areas in Kafr Kila, Mays al-Jabal, al-Bustan, Markaba and Aita al-Shaab, towns that were among the most affected during eight months of fighting.

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It is a New York-based human rights group alongside Amnesty International Israel was also accused of using white phosphorus in residential areas In October 2023, less than a month away The clashes began Between the Israeli army and the powerful Hezbollah group along the southern border between Lebanon and Israel, a day after war broke out between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

In its report, Human Rights Watch called on the Lebanese government to allow the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute “serious international crimes” inside Lebanon since October 2023.

“Israel’s recent use of white phosphorus in Lebanon should motivate other countries to take immediate action to achieve this goal,” said Ramzi Qais, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Lebanon.

More than 400 people were killed in Lebanon, most of them fighters, but also including more than 70 civilians and non-combatants. In Israel, 15 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed since October. Tens of thousands of people were displaced on both sides of the border.

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Associated Press writer Melanie Leidman, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.