The Israeli army denied on Thursday charges by a human rights group that its bombardment of heavily populated areas of Gaza with white phosphorous munitions violated international law and could constitute a war crime.
"Based on the findings (of an internal investigation) at this stage, it is already possible to conclude that the IDF's (Israel Defence Forces) use of smoke shells was in accordance with international law," it said in a statement.
"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," the army said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released on Wednesday that the army during its 22-day in Gaza in December-January "repeatedly exploded white phosphorous munitions in the air over populated areas, killing and injuring civilians and damaging civilian structures, including a school, a market, a humanitarian aid warehouse and a hospital."
"The (military's) repeated firing of air-burst white phosphorous shells from 155mm artillery into densely populated areas was indiscriminate and indicates the commission of war crimes," it said.