Accrding to IHS Jane’s Weapons Technology Analyst commenting on the discussions surrounding the Israeli use of white phosherous agents in Gaza, “The round so far specified as being fired are the M825A1 which is purely an air-burst white phosherous smoke projectile.” the analyst said. ‘It’s construction and function is highly elaborate and I would say deliberately so to make it inappropriate for anti-personnel use’. M825A1 shell is not defined as an incendiary weapon by the Third Protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons because its principal use is to produce smoke to protect troops. White Phosphorous weapons banned by theprotocol are ground or low level burst weapons designed primarily for anti-personnel use. The primary function of the M825A1 is for the rapid creation of a highly effective, but short lived visible and infrared smoke screen.
During the opening stages of Cast Lead land campaign, these munitions were employed at relatively low altitude, creating optimal obscuration for extended period of time. However, at the later stages, smoke screens were activated at higher elevation, thus eliminating much of the risk of collateral damage to non combatants. The activation height is determined by setting the time delay fuse for shorter activation.
According to the London Times, Israel is using white phosphorus shells. The Times claimed these shells are clearly seen on stockpiles used by Israel’s artillery units operating near Gaza. The newspaper said Palestinian citizens had suffered burns caused by the weapons, claiming ‘The use of WP against civilians is prohibited under international law”. Phosphorus ignites on contact with oxygen and, according to the Times, is being used by the Israeli military to create smokescreens to allow its ground forces to operate.
Israeli military spokeswoman referred to the projectile identified by the Times as a ‘quiet shell’. “It is empty, it has no explosives and no white phosphorus. There is nothing inside it… We shoot it to mark the target before we launch a real shell. We launch two or three of the quiet shells which are empty so that the real shells will be accurate. It’s not for killing people.”