Yesterday, the Washington Post published the results of its own investigation into a shelling incident in southern Lebanon in October, in which it concluded that the Israeli military used U.S.-supplied white phosphorus rounds in an attack on a village, which wounded nine civilians and which Human Rights Watch said should be investigated as a war crime. A journalist working for the Post found shell fragments in the village of Dheira, near the border with Israel, after the shelling attack. The shell fragments were marked “WP” and had production lot numbers indicating that they were made by ammunition depots in Louisiana and Arkansas in 1989 and 1992. The Post notes that the contents of a white phosphorus shell can stick to skin, causing potentially fatal burns and respiratory damage, and groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch “have warned that its use should be restricted around civilians because fire and smoke can be spread to populated areas.”
WP shells have legitimate uses on the battlefield, including target marking, signaling, and generating smoke screens, but none of these uses is indicated in the Israeli attack on Dheira, especially as the attack was executed overnight, during which time smoke has much less utility than during the day. Residents speculated that the phosphorus was meant to displace them from the village and to clear the way for future Israeli military activity in the area.
At the White House, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. is “concerned” about the reporting that Israel is using white phosphorus rounds in its war—there have been accusations that Israel is using it in Gaza, too. “We’ve seen the reports, certainly concerned about that. We’ll be asking questions to try to learn a little bit more,” Kirby told reporters.