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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

General admits that US-led coalition used white phosphorus in Mosul

New Zealand Brigadier General Hugh McAsian admitted that the U.S.-led coalition used white phosphorus during its operations in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

McAsian said that around 28,000 civilians have managed to reach safety from Islamic State(IS) held territory during the last few days. He claimed: "We have utilized white phosphorus to screen areas within west Mosul to get civilians out safely." This is the first confirmation that the white phosphorus has been used in Mosul. Although the coalition claims to have control now of 90 percent of western Mosul the UN claims there are still tens of thousands of civilians trapped in an enclave controlled by the IS.
Amnesty International has warned that the use of white phosphorus to produce smoke screens carries a deadly risk in urban settings noting that white phosphorus can cause "terrific injuries, burning deep into the muscle and bone". Sometimes the substance ignites weeks after being deployed creating even more danger. Amnesty documented the use of white phosphorus east of Mosul in 2016 and warned that its use near population centers "constitutes an indiscriminate attack and can be a war crime".
White phosphorus is not banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention(CWC) but its legality is linked to the manner of its use. In 2005 Peter Kaiser a CWC spokesperson said that the phosphorus can be used to camouflage movement but should not be employed as a weapon. The U.S. admitted it used white phosphorus in the 2004 battle for Falujah in Iraq and also In Afghanistan in 2009. Israel used it in the 2008 Gaza war. Israel has signed but not ratified the CWC. Neither Egypt, North Korea, or South Sudan have even signed the agreement. Israel pledged in 2013 not to use white phosphorus any more.
There are also allegations that white phosphorus is being used in Syria in the fight for the city of Raqqa held by the IS. An IS-linked media outlet Amaq has released footage that purports to show white phosphorus raining down on the city by night. While Amnesty International has not as yet been able to confirm the authenticity of the video footage it is nevertheless urging U.S.-led forces not to use the phosphorus in areas where civilians are trapped. One supporter of the campaign against the IS said that residents in the city are desperate for leaflets telling them where they can shelter during bombing campaigns.
The intensified air strikes on Raqqa are taking a huge toll on civilians. The UN reports the strikes have killed at least 300 civilians in Raqqa since March. Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry said: "We note in particular that the intensification of air strikes, which have paved the ground for an SDF advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced."


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