Geneva - Using shells containing internationally banned white phosphorus, the Israeli army has launched more than a thousand artillery strikes on densely populated areas since the start of its bloody war on the Gaza Strip on 7 October, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said.

Euro-Med Monitor said in a new statement released Thursday that it has documented the Israeli army’s indiscriminate use of white phosphorus—an incendiary substance that burns human flesh and can cause lifelong suffering—in highly populated areas in Gaza City and the Strip’s northern areas. The human rights group contended that the substance is being used by Israel as an additional weapon to escalate genocide and forced displacement.

Testimonies received by the Euro-Med Monitor team reveal that on Wednesday 15 November, the Israeli army launched a total of 300 white phosphorus strikes on a packed residential square in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia in under 40 minutes. Earlier that evening, reports of multiple white phosphorus shells were recorded in a crowded area of Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood. Similar attacks were also reported in the Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza, and the Jabalia town and camp in the Strip’s north.

Palestinian residents of the aforementioned areas said that they suffered from severe breathing problems after inhaling white phosphorus; they spoke of an extremely strong odor and significant obstruction of their vision due to thick white smoke. People exposed to white phosphorus can suffer respiratory problems, organ failure, and other serious, life-altering injuries, including burns that are extremely difficult to treat and cannot be extinguished with water.

Israel’s escalating use of white phosphorus and smoke bombs targeting crowded residential areas comes as part of its forced displacement and ethnic cleansing policies, which have forced half of Gaza’s population to leave their homes, shelters, and hospitals and attempt to move to the south of the Gaza Valley, Euro-Med Monitor said.

The Geneva-based organisation stressed that Israel continues to violate proportionality and discrimination principles by directly targeting the lives and health of civilians, and cited Israel’s use of internationally prohibited weapons—a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and the rules of war.

Israel uses explosive bombs with huge destructive effects on heavily populated areas, said the rights group. The use of these bombs represents the most serious threat to civilians in contemporary armed conflicts, and explains the severity of the widespread death and devastation in the Gaza Strip, including the complete levelling of residential neighbourhoods there.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor pointed to the rules of international humanitarian law, which emphasise the importance of the protection of civilians under any circumstances. Targeting civilians is considered a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts, and may amount to a crime against humanity.

Euro-Med Monitor warned that white phosphorus use is forbidden by international law, and should never be directed towards or close to populated residential areas or civilian infrastructure. The human rights organisation called for the formation of an independent international investigation committee into Israeli use of internationally prohibited weapons against civilians in Gaza, and for all perpetrators to be held accountable, including those who gave orders, planned, and carried out the attacks.