US-led coalition appears to be using white phosphorous in Syria, Iraq
Newly released videos appear to show US-led coalition bombers using white phosphorus-loaded munitions in densely-populated areas in Syria and Iraq.
White phosphorus is an incendiary and toxic chemical substance. The munitions filled with the substance create a thick white cloud when they explode. Upon contact with flesh, the substance can maim and kill by burning to the bone. Human rights groups warn against the use of the substance.
Raqqah is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of citizen journalists who document abuses in the Daesh stronghold of Raqqah, posted footage online showing the signature spread of airburst white phosphorus — probably from M825 series 155-milimeter artillery rounds — while exploding over the Syrian city’s eastern part.
Similar videos were also published online, appearing to show the use of white phosphorus bombs by the US-led coalition warplanes in the Iraqi city of Mosul as well.
Mary Wareham, the advocacy director at Human Rights Watch’s arms division, said the organization was trying to determine the veracity of the videos.
US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, said he would not confirm the use of the munitions but claimed that the US military employed it in “accordance with the law of armed conflict” and that white phosphorus rounds were “used for screening, obscuring, and marking in a way that fully considers the possible incidental effects on civilians and civilian structures.”
“The coalition takes all reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of incidental injury to non-combatants and damage to civilian structures,” he claimed.
Last month, the Pentagon posted photographs taken in March of US Marines using white phosphorus munitions in Syria.
The US and its allies have been bombarding what they say are Daesh positions inside Syria and Iraq since 2014. The coalition has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of eliminating Daesh.
The Pentagon has admitted to killing almost 500 civilians in the US campaign over the past three years, but monitoring group Airwars says the actual number is around 3,800.
The US coalition operations do not have the permission of the Syrian government and are not coordinated with Damascus.
The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has on several occasions written to the United Nations, saying the “illegal” attacks “blatantly contradict the UN Security Council’s resolutions, international law, and international humanitarian law.”