• Incendiary weapons cause particularly cruel injuries to both civilians and combatants. They are also prone to being indiscriminate by starting fires and causing casualties over a large area without distinction. Incendiary weapons have been used at great human cost in conflicts from Africa to Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Human Rights Watch urges states parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons to amend the 30-year-old provisions of Protocol III on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons. The protocol’s definition should be broadened to cover the most problematic modern incendiary munitions, such as white phosphorus. States should bolster the protocol’s restrictions by at least adopting measures to prohibit use of all incendiary weapons in civilian areas. A complete ban on the use of incendiary weapons would have the most humanitarian benefits and provide the strongest protection under international law.


  • Deliberate and Indiscriminate Air Strikes on Civilians
  • Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
  • Laws of War Violations and the Use of Weapons on the Israel-Lebanon Border

Incendiary Weapons

  • Nov 14, 2013
    Steve Goose, executive director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch, and Mary Wareham, coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and advocacy director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch, delivered statements on Fully Autonomous Weapons at Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Meeting of States Parties in Geneva.
  • Nov 11, 2013
    For weeks, the Syrian Air Force had been bombing the Damascus suburb of Daraya. But on the morning of Nov. 16, 2012, something was different.
  • Nov 11, 2013
    Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance. These weapons cause extremely painful burns that are difficult to treat, and also start fires that can destroy objects and infrastructure. Field investigations, witness accounts, and videos and photos reviewed by Human Rights Watch indicate that the Syrian Air Force carried out at least 56 incendiary weapons attacks from November 2012 through September 2013. Human Rights Watch and the Violations Documentation Center in Syria have documented four separate incendiary weapons attacks that resulted in the deaths of at least 41 civilians and the wounding of 71 others.
  • Nov 10, 2013
    Syria should immediately stop using incendiary weapons, Human Rights Watch said today in a report which documents at least 56 attacks using the weapons since November 2012. Human Rights Watch will present its concerns at the annual meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva this week.
  • Aug 30, 2013
  • May 18, 2013
    Israel should strengthen an announced reduction of its military use of white phosphorus munitions by banning all use of “air-burst” white phosphorus munitions in populated areas without exception. Human Rights Watch has also urged all countries to make white phosphorus illegal when used as an incendiary weapon.
  • Apr 26, 2013
    New Syrian government air and missile strikes are causing high civilian casualties in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo in violation of the laws of war. A Human Rights Watch team in northern Aleppo province has investigated recent attacks that killed scores of civilians and destroyed dozens of civilian homes without damaging any apparent opposition military targets.
  • Apr 16, 2013
    Life in Aleppo is not easy. People here have suffered from shortages of food, electricity and running water, and there has been little humanitarian assistance. The long, cold winter months were particularly rough. The only possible consolation was that there were fewer air strikes because of the cloudy, rainy weather. The government’s jets only seem to fly – and drop bombs – when the sky is blue.
  • Apr 10, 2013
    The Syrian Air Force has repeatedly carried out indiscriminate, and in some cases deliberate, air strikes against civilians. These attacks are serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war), and people who commit such violations with criminal intent are responsible for war crimes.
  • Dec 12, 2012

    The Syrian military has used air-delivered incendiary bombs in at least fourlocations across Syria since mid-November 2012.