Israel/OPT: Identifying the Israeli army’s use of white phosphorus in Gaza

Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Programme gathered compelling evidence documenting the use of white phosphorus artillery shells by the Israeli army in densely populated civilian areas in Gaza, many of which may be considered unlawful indiscriminate attacks. 

Following the attacks on civilians in Israel by Hamas and other armed groups on 07 October, the Israeli army has been bombarding Gaza at an unprecedented rate. Videos and photos verified by Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab indicate that Israel has been using white phosphorus ammunition. 

White phosphorus is an incendiary substance mostly used to create a dense smoke screen or mark targets. It burns at extremely high temperatures when exposed to air, and can continue to burn inside flesh. It causes horrific pain and life-changing injuries, and cannot be put out with water. 

On 09 October, the Israeli Defence Forces positioned M109 155mm Howitzers next to the city of Sderot, which had been previously attacked by Hamas and sits about one kilometre away from the Israel/Gaza border fence. 

SDEROT, ISRAEL – OCTOBER 09: A view of an ammunition as Israel tightens measures by the army, police and other security forces after Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood in Sderot, Israel on October 09, 2023. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Several of these verified photos show M825 and M825A1 artillery shells, which are also labelled D528, the US Department of Defense Identification Code (DODIC) for white phosphorus-based rounds. 

Detail for artillery shells for white phosphorus-based rounds. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Specifications of the 155mm M825A1 Phosphorous Smoke Projectile. Source.

M109 howitzers have a range of approximately 18-22km. From Sderot, this puts the northern half of the Gaza Strip within range.  

In recent days, several pieces of video evidence suggest the use of 155mm white phosphorus artillery shells in northern Gaza. In particular, the Crisis Evidence Lab team was able to verify the attack that took place on Gaza harbour and nearby hotels, as can be seen in this video, posted on October 11.

The same attack can be seen from another angle in this video, where white phosphorus ammunition is seen being used in tandem with what seem to be standard high explosive artillery shells. 

Additional video evidence available also show artillery shells exploding in mid-air, and releasing thick white smoke-producing particles – which is consistent with the use of M825 and M825A1 artillery shells. 
This video, also posted on 11 October, was geolocated at the following coordinates – 31.518279° 34.445217° – near the Bank of Palestine Tower, in the heavily-damaged district of Zeitoun, near Aljondy Almajhool Park.

Amnesty International is currently reviewing further evidence of the potential use of white phosphorus ammunition in northern Israel and Lebanon.