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U.S. rights group Human Rights Watch this week charged Israel with illegal use of white phosphorous bombs in urban areas.

International law allows such weapons to be used in battlefields as a smokescreen but the material is considered dangerous in residential areas due to the severe burns it inflicts, as well as its incendiary quality.

Based on his observations last week, HRW military analyst Mark Garlasco determined that the IDF is using the material, although the army has not confirmed its use.

In 2006 Israel acknowledged for the first time that it had attacked Hezbollah targets during the second Lebanon war with phosphorus shells. Until then Israel had maintained that it only used such bombs to mark targets or territory.

Phosphorus has been used by armies since World War I. During World War II and Vietnam the U.S. and British armies made extensive use of phosphorus. During recent decades the tendency has been to ban the use of phosphorus munitions against any target, civilian or military, because of the severity of the injuries that the substance causes.