The State Prosecutor's Office told the High Court of Justice Wednesday that Deputy IDF Chief of Staff (Maj.-Gen.) Yair Naveh recently ordered a significant reduction in the use of artillery shells containing white phosphorus.
The white phosphorus creates a smokescreen for soldiers during battle – mainly in populated areas.
A few months ago human rights group Yesh Gvul petitioned the court demanding it ban the use of such shells for smoke-screening purposes in civilian areas. The petition claimed the IDF made use of white phosphorus shells during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (December 2008 – January 2009). Following the operation, Palestinians groups and human rights groups made similar claims.
IDF tanks during Cast Lead (Archive photo: Reuters)
In its response to the petition, the State said the High Court does not generally intervene in matter related to IDF weaponry, adding that in any case Naveh had ordered a significant reduction in the use of white phosphorus shells. The State claimed that the rules of combat under international law do not forbid the use of phosphorus for smoke-screening purposes.
In its response, the State wrote that the white phosphorus shells are used solely for smoke-screening purposes – to protect IDF forces on the ground – adding that IDF regulations forbid the use of white phosphorus shells for any other purpose.
The State further claimed such shells are employed by the US and European armies as well.
According to the State, the deputy chief of staff's order to reduce the use of white phosphorus followed extensive investigations conducted by the army in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead.
The State told the court the use of white phosphorus shells in civilian areas is forced upon the IDF by terror groups in Gaza, which, according to the State, continually violate the rules of combat.
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