Firefighters in Lebanon were battling wildfires that Lebanese civil defence says were sparked by Israeli shelling, with the flames visible for miles as darkness fell.
The fires started in the early hours of Tuesday and were caused by Israeli shells containing white phosphorous being launched across the border, head of the Tyre regional centre of Lebanese civil defence, Abdalla Mousawae, told Reuters.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reuters could not independently verify the cause of the fires.
Border clashes between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah have escalated in recent weeks since Israel went to war with Hezbollah’s Palestinian ally Hamas.
The flames near the Lebanese border village of Labbouneh could be seen from the coastal city of Tyre, some 25 kilometres north, a Reuters witness said.
“We’re facing phosphorous shelling, these react with oxygen, they fall causing lots of shrapnel,” Mousawae said. “Around 90 per of the shells are phosphorous bombs,” Mousawae said, citing doctors and the army, and adding that fires caused by such shells had a distinct colour. There were no immediate reports of any injuries from the blaze.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed its mission to the United Nations to submit a new complaint to the UN Security Council “to condemn Israel’s use of white phosphorus in its repeated attacks against Lebanon, and its deliberate burning of Lebanese woods and forests”, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported on Tuesday, citing Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.
Separately on Tuesday, human rights group Amnesty International accused the Israeli army of firing artillery shells containing white phosphorous in military operations along Lebanon’s southern border between October 10 and October 16.
“It is beyond horrific that the Israeli army has indiscriminately used white phosphorous in violation of international humanitarian law,” Amnesty’s deputy Middle East director Aya Majzoub said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the Israeli military said an accusation by Human Rights Watch that it had used white phosphorus munitions in Gaza was “unequivocally false”.
White phosphorus munitions can legally be used on battlefields to make smoke screens, generate illumination, mark targets or burn bunkers and buildings, but it’s considered an incendiary weapon and international law prohibits its use against military targets located among civilians.