IDF Clarifies Policy on White Phosphorous

The use of munitions containing white phosphorous for screening purposes is lawful under international law. The international law governing armed conflict does not contain a customary law prohibition on the use of white phosphorus for screening purposes, whether employed in an urban area or otherwise.

Similar to the militaries of other countries, the IDF employs the use of smoke shells containing white phosphorous for screening purposes, particularly for the protection of IDF forces during hostilities. The use is conducted according to the requirements of international law. Such use may be expected in future military operations as the need arises.

At the same time, for various reasons, the IDF has decided to significantly reduce its usage of smoke shells containing white phosphorous during the conduct of hostilities in urban areas (as publicized previously), even though this is not required under the international law governing armed conflict.

Additionally, the IDF is currently in the process of developing a new type of smoke shells that do not contain white phosphorous. Depending on the outcome of the development process, the new shells are intended to gradually replace the current smoke shells as the primary means employed by the IDF for screening purposes. The IDF intends to complete this development process as quickly as possible, however there is currently no expected date for the completion of this process. As long as the IDF does not possess alternative smoke shells that meet operational requirements, and in the quantities required, the use and stockpiling of the current smoke shells will continue as deemed necessary.

Last updated February 2013

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