Israel’s army said Thursday that it would soon halt its use of white phosphorus shells after years of international criticism for using the incendiary munitions in crowded Palestinian areas.
White phosphorous munitions are blown up by UN and Hamas sappers in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in 2010
The army said in a statement that it would replace white phosphorus shells with ones based entirely on gas. Officials didn’t offer further details, nor give a specific date for when they would retire the shells.
Israel came under heavy criticism after the three-week winter war in Gaza in 2008 and 2009 against the territory’s Hamas for using white phosphorus shells. During the conflict, shells were used against a UN warehouse where more than 700 Palestinians were sheltering.
White phosphorus can be used legally in some battlefield situations, but Israel’s use of it in Gaza drew war crimes allegations by the UN.
Earlier in the day Israel shot down a drone as it approached its northern coast from neighboring Lebanon, raising suspicions that the Hezbollah militant group was behind the infiltration attempt.
Hezbollah denied involvement, but the incident was likely to heighten Israeli concerns that the Shiite militant group is trying to take advantage of the unrest in neighboring Syria to strengthen its capabilities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in a helicopter in northern Israel at the time of the incident, said he viewed it with “utmost gravity.”
Israeli military spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said the unmanned aircraft was detected as it was flying over Lebanon and tracked as it approached Israeli airspace.
He said the military waited for the aircraft to enter Israeli airspace, confirmed it was “enemy,” and then an F-16 warplane shot it down, smashing its wreckage into the sea about five miles off the northern port of Haifa. Lerner said Israeli naval forces were searching for the remains of the aircraft.
He said it still was not clear who sent the drone, noting it flew over Lebanese airspace, but that it could have originated from somewhere else.
Other military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to talk to the media, said they believed it was an Iranian-manufactured aircraft sent by Hezbollah. The Lebanese group sent a drone into Israeli airspace last October that Israel also shot down.
(Source / 26.04.2013)