White House 'concerned' by report Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus in Lebanon

Biden administration facing growing pressure over aid to Israel

Israeli artillery shells that appear to contain white phosphorus explode over a Lebanese border village in October. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

The White House is “concerned” by reports that Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus in an attack in southern Lebanon, an American official said on Monday.

The Washington Post reported that at least nine civilians were injured and four homes burnt during the October incident. Shell fragments found in a small village indicated the weapons had been manufactured in the US, the report found.

Israel has been engaged in the cross-border shelling of Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon since the Hamas attacks of October 7.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that President Joe Biden's administration is “certainly concerned about that” and will be “asking questions to try to learn a little bit more”.

White phosphorus is not a banned substance under international law and Mr Kirby said it “does have a legitimate military utility”.

But rights groups have said its intentional use against civilians could constitute a war crime.

“Anytime that we provide items like white phosphorous to another military, it is with the full expectation that it will be used in keeping with those legitimate purposes and in keeping with the law of armed conflict,” Mr Kirby said.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was “imperative” the Israeli military use US weapons in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law.

The rhetoric comes as Washington ramps-up military support for Israel.

The US is trying to push through the supply of 13,000 tank rounds, without any congressional oversight, for use by Israel's forces in the Gaza Strip.

The Biden administration has faced mounting pressure over its arms flow to Israel, a historic Washington ally that has received hundreds of billions in US aid without conditions.

A group of key Democratic senators has announced they are working on an amendment “to require that the weapons received by any country under the proposed national security supplemental are used in accordance with US law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict”.

“US taxpayer dollars have never come in the form of a blank cheque. It’s critical that we hold all nations who receive our assistance to the same standards,” the group's leader, Senator Chris Van Hollen, said in a statement.

“We must also insist that our partners co-operate with us in allowing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

Updated: December 12, 2023, 6:18 AM