Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Israel used phosphorous shells in Lebanon

INTENSE HEAT, SMOKE A government official said that the weapons, which can cause severe chemical burns, were used against militants in the recent war

AP , JERUSALEM

The Israeli army used phosphorous artillery shells against Hezbollah guerrilla targets during their war in Lebanon this summer, an Israeli Cabinet minister said, confirming Lebanese allegations for the first time.

Until now, Israel had said it only used the weapons -- which cause severe chemical burns -- to mark targets or territory, according to Israeli media reports.

The Geneva Conventions ban using white phosphorous against civilians or civilian areas and Israel said the weapons were used solely against military targets.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Yaakov Edri said on Sunday that Israel used the weapons before an Aug. 14 ceasefire went into effect, ending its 34-day war against Hezbollah.

Edri's spokeswoman Orly Yehezkel said he was speaking on behalf of Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

"The Israeli army holds phosphorous munitions in different forms," Edri said. "The Israeli army made use of phosphorous shells during the war against Hezbollah in attacks against military targets in open ground."

The Lebanese government accused Israel of dropping phosphorous bombs during the war.

Edri did not specify where or against what types of targets the shells were used.

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

The US acknowledged last year that US troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds in Iraq during the battle of Fallujah in November 2004, but said it had never been used against civilian targets.

Israel has signed the Geneva Conventions.

The Israeli military said in July its use of weapons "conforms with international law" and it investigates claims of violations based on the information provided.

Overall, more than 1,200 civilians were killed on both sides during the conflict, which started with Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in July.

Both Israel and Hezbollah have been accused by the UN and human rights groups of violating humanitarian law during the conflict.

Israel has been accused of firing as many as 4 million cluster bombs into Lebanon during the war, especially in the last hours before the ceasefire.

UN demining experts say up to 1 million cluster bombs failed to explode immediately and continue to threaten civilians.

On Sunday, a cluster bomb exploded in a southern Lebanese village, killing a 12-year-old boy and wounding his younger brother, security officials said.

At least 21 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded by cluster bomb munitions since the end of the war, the UN Mine Action Center said.

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