IDF Using Phosphorus Shells to Train, Against International Law

Area of Hebron Hills had been uninhabited at time, but military failed to remove unexploded ordance when residents returned.

The Israel Defense Forces has been using phosphorus shells in training exercises, a practice forbidden in inhabited areas under international law.

Several weeks ago, four Bedouin goatherders were badly hurt by the detonation of an unexploded phosphorus shell they found near their home in the South Hebron Hills. Fadal Abu Aram, 17, died of his injuries several weeks later; Hani, 12, is still in serious condition at his family's shack in the village of Carmel; Mahmoud, 14, and Yusef, 24, were also injured by the explosion.

The blast occurred on August 17 in an area where Bedouin families have been living in caves, in an IDF fire zone. Civilians who had been evicted from the area were permitted to return following an interim order from the High Court of Justice, but the IDF never cleared the unexploded ordinance.

The brothers said they found the shell about 100 meters from their home. One of the children spotted the large metal object and called his brothers over, and then the shell exploded.

The brothers were rushed in serious condition to the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva. Hospital records state specifically that they were suffering from phosphorus injuries.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said at the time, "This was an unfortunate incident." Regarding the use of phosphorus shells, the spokesman told Haaretz last night: "Phosphorus shells are used solely in training, in order to mark targets and sector boundaries."