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French Version

Israel admits using deadly incendiary during summer war

Army 'made use of phosphorous shells'

Israel acknowledged on Sunday that it had used the white phosphorous bombs in South Lebanon during the summer war, partially confirming Lebanese allegations for the first time. The Jewish state also said its almost daily violations of Lebanon's airspace would continue in order to monitor what it claimed was ongoing weapons smuggling to Hizbullah.

"The [Israeli military] made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hizbullah in attacks against military targets in open ground," Minister for Government and Parliamentary Relations Yakov Edery told lawmakers last week, the Haaretz daily said Sunday.

Media reports on Israel's use of phosphorous bombs during the 34-day war in Lebanon continue to emerge, as cases of severely burned victims pile up at hospitals across the South.

As the war was raging, the Lebanese government accused Israel of dropping phosphorous bombs and until the announcement by Edery, who was speaking on behalf of Defense Minister Amir Peretz, there were no confirmed reports.

"The Israeli Army holds phosphorous munitions in different forms," Haaretz quoted Edery as saying. However, he did not specify where or against what types of targets the phosphorous bombs were used.

Edery said international law does not ban the use of such weapons. However, many international human rights groups, including the Red Cross, have pushed for them to be outlawed.

"Under international law, the use of white phosphorous (WP) as an incendiary would fall under Protocol III of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, which prohibits use of incendiaries to attack civilians or military targets in civilian areas," Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative in Lebanon Nadim Houry told The Daily Star.

Houry added that it is generally acceptable to use WP not as an offensive weapon, but to provide illumination or to produce smoke for concealment.

Houry added that although Israel is "not party" to the protocol, many of the rules in Protocol III are accepted international standards.

"I would say this is a case where international law may be lagging behind international public opinion," he said.

White phosphorous is a translucent wax-like substance with a pungent smell that, once ignited, creates intense heat and smoke.

"White phosphorous ammunition can have a devastating effect if it is used in the anti-personnel role," said Houry.

In addition to the toxicity of the smoke, burning fragments can stick to the skin and clothing to cause severe burns, and fragments of phosphorous can become buried in wounds.

"The fact that white phosphorous was used is certainly worrisome to Human Rights Watch, and it is incumbent upon Israel to give more information on when, where, why and how it was used, rather than just saying it was used against military targets in open areas. This is not sufficient to assess whether it has indeed spared civilians harm," said Houry.

There have been numerous accusations of Israeli forces using phosphorous against civilians. This was especially true during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the 1993 shelling of villages in the South.

Also on Sunday, Peretz said Israel would continue its controversial overflights. He said they were necessary because Hizbullah was still receiving smuggled arms.

"The Lebanese government is falling short of carrying out its commitment under UN Security Council Resolution 1701," the Defense Ministry quoted Peretz as telling the weekly Cabinet meeting. "Increasing intelligence indicates a growing effort to pass weapons into Lebanon.

"As long as these attempts continue, the legitimacy of our flights over Lebanon increases," Peretz added. "As long as Resolution 1701 is not carried out,

we have no intention of stopping the flights over Lebanon."

Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh said Lebanon is "committed to 1701" and all the violations have been by Israel.

"Israel continues to violate, defy the international community and cause tension in the area but accuses Lebanon of violations," he said.

Israel continued to carry out flights over Lebanese territory on Sunday, with reports of "heavy" activity over the towns of Nabatieh, Marjayoun and Khiam.

The flights have been increasingly criticized by the international community, with France, which currently heads the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, warning last Friday that it might use force the violations.

Beirut 24-10-2006
Rym Ghazal
The Daily Star

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