(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)
At the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, instructed that a number of investigations be conducted at the General Staff level, each lead by an officer of the rank of colonel. The investigations are intended to evaluate different aspects of the fighting during the operation, in addition to the operational investigations being conducted at the different command levels. The IDF spokesperson announced during the Operation Cast Lead that an investigative committee headed by a colonel would investigate allegations with regard to the use of ammunition containing elements of phosphorous.
This particular investigation is dealing with the use of ammunition containing elements of phosphorous, including, amongst others, the 155mm smoke shells which were referred to in the Human Rights Watch report. This type of ammunition disperses in the atmosphere and creates an effective smoke screen. It is used by many Western armies.
The investigation is close to conclusion, and based on the findings at this stage, it is already possible to conclude that the IDF's use of smoke shells was in accordance with international law. These shells were used for specific operational needs only and in accord with international humanitarian law. The claim that smoke shells were used indiscriminately, or to threaten the civilian population, is baseless.
It should be noted that contrary to the claims in the report, smoke shells are not an incendiary weapon. The third protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) – which defines particular limitations on incendiary weapons – makes it clear that weapons intended for screening are not classed as incendiary weapons. The State of Israel is not a signatory of the third protocol, however, in any, case, as noted this protocol does not ban the use of smoke shells for the purpose of screening.
This announcement is an intermediate response. At the conclusion of the investigation by the Chief of Staff, the main findings will be presented to the public.