JERUSALEM, (AFP) – Israel will restrict its use of white phosphorus munitions and seek to limit civilian casualties in future wars, it said in a report to the UN secretary general released this week.
“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) chief of general staff ordered the establishment of a clear doctrine and orders on the issue of various munitions which contain white phosphorous,” said the 37-page report, posted on the Israeli foreign ministry’s website.
“These instructions are currently being implemented.”
It said the military has also implemented changes in combat doctrine “designated to further minimise civilian casualties and damage to civilian property in the future.”
“In particular, the IDF has adopted important new procedures designed to enhance the protection of civilians in urban warfare,” the report said, adding that a “humanitarian affairs officer” would be integrated in each combat unit, from battalion level up.
Israel has faced sharp condemnation for the high civilian toll and the use of white phosphorus munitions in the devastating 22-day offensive it launched in December 2008 in response to daily rocket attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other Palestinian armed groups.
Human rights groups say that more than half of the 1,400 Palestinians killed in the war did not take part in the hostilities, including 320 minors.
Rights groups also say Israel made widespread use of white phosphorus.
Under international law, white phosphorus is banned for use near civilians, but is permitted for creating a smokescreen.
The Israeli armed forces insist they did their utmost to avoid civilian casualties.