Palestine and Kashmir: White Phosphorus 


ICNA CSJ

Date published: Mon, 10 June 24


Israel and India are two occupiers that utilize extensive illegal tactics to oppress occupied peoples in Palestine and Kashmir. In Palestine, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) fired artillery shells containing white phosphorus in operations across Gaza and southern Lebanon in October of 2023. In Kashmir, the Indian Army and Jammu and Kashmir Police launched an operation in southern Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Locals have stated that white phosphorus was used by the forces during the operation. 

The use of white phosphorus is restricted under international humanitarian law. The use of white phosphorus is explicitly forbidden against civilian areas or civilian infrastructure. White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon, which means that it is designed to catch fire. Usually, the weapon is used to create a smoke screen or to mark targets. When it is exposed to air, it burns at extremely high temperatures, and starts fires where it is sent. 

The use of white phosphorus on people causes respiratory damage, organ failure, and horrific life-changing injuries. Amnesty International reports that “burns affecting only 10 percent of the body are often fatal.” 

Amnesty International, back in October, reported that Israel used white phosphorus during attacks on towns in southern Lebanon. Israel has not signed the United Nations convention on the use of white phosphorus. Human Rights Watch said in a report, “The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life.” 

In 2008 and 2009, Israel launched 200 munitions of white phosphorus into Gaza. Human Rights Watch found dozens of civilian casualties in the incidents documented. This shows that Israel has a long history with the use of illegal chemical weapons, and is not deterred by international law. 

Professor of maxillofacial surgery and plastic surgery at Necker-Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris told Al Jazeera regarding white phosphorus contact with skin, “The burns have a double effect. They have a local effect because of the burn itself, which is generally quite severe and very deep, and then the second effect is metabolic, which can kill the patients.” Khonsari goes on to explain that white phosphorus can cause metabolic disorders that cause heart failure, organ failure, and that the burns continue to pierce the skin and will reach a person’s bones. White phosphorus can also ignite when it comes into contact with the skin again, and it can lethal if inhaled. 

It is, in all ways, a horrific and cruel weapon that should never be used against people. 

In Kashmir, the Indian forces have previously used white phosphorus in Pulwama in 2017. Five houses were burned down and charred bodies were discovered in the debris. In the most recent use of white phosphorus, locals allege that white phosphorus was used because of the charred bodies. 

The occupations of Palestine and Kashmir ring with similarities – how both occupying forces have used illegal chemical weapons against the civilian occupied peoples showcases the cruelty and sadistic nature of the occupations. Israel and India must both be strictly condemned against the use of these illegal weapons.