Syrians Accuse U.S.-Led Forces Of Bombing Raqqa With White Phosphorus

Syrian opposition groups and ISIS say that the U.S.-led coalition is attacking civilians with the substance, which can burn skin down to the bone

An ISIS video allegedly showing white phosphorus dropped on Raqqa
Jun 11, 2017 at 9:52 AM ET

Syrian activists are sharing images that suggest the U.S-led coalition in its fight against ISIS is illegally using white phosphorous, a deadly incendiary substance, in residential areas of the terror group’s stronghold in Raqqa.

Over the weekend, a group of Syrian journalists who go by the name “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently” tweeted under the hashtag, #Raqqa_is_burning (), posting in both Arabic and English that the “USA and coalition are killing civilians with no reason.”

Amaq News Agency, the official news agency of ISIS, also distributed images and video of the alleged white phosphorous attack, saying that “the infidels are exterminating the Muslims and jihadis in Mosul and Raqqa by white phosphorus.” The group has also claimed that the coalition used white phosphorous in attacks on ISIS’ Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.

ISIS video of the alleged WP bombing in Raqqa circulating on social media

“The Crusader countries are attacking the Islamic State with white phosphorus because they see that they forces cannot defeat the soldiers of the Caliphate,” said one pro-ISIS user on the messaging app Telegram, who was among dozens discussing the alleged attack. On Telegram, many instructed those exposed to the substance to refrain from touching affected areas and from using water to contain the spread.

White phosphorus is a self-igniting weapon that can be used as a smoke screen to mask the movement of forces on the ground, mask the origins of fire, or to signal to other troops. According to international law, the use of the material is forbidden in civilian areas, since it can cause severe, thermal and chemical burns when coming into contact with the flesh.

Amnesty International has classified its use inside, or in the vicinity of, civilian areas as an indiscriminate attack and a possible war crime.

White phosphorus, as well as other incendiaries, has been used by Syrian regime forces fighting insurgents in Aleppo and elsewhere.

Previously, the U.S. used white phosphorous as an “incendiary weapon” during the battle to reclaim the Iraqi city of Fallujah from al-Qaeda affiliated militants in 2004.

The long-awaited battle to retake the ISIS-held city of Raqqa was launched last Tuesday by the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias. According to local reports, the SDF started advancing from the eastern and western sides of the city and reclaimed limited areas in the outskirts of Raqqa city from ISIS on Saturday.

“We announce the good news of the start of the Great Battle, which aims to liberate Raqqa, and we declare that our forces are ready for the fight with high morale and great preparations,” the coalition said in a statement.

The International Rescue Committee warned last week that 200,000 people are still trapped inside Raqqa, including tens of thousands of children.

“The IRC has seen a drop in the number of people escaping Raqqa over the past week, which may indicate ISIS intends to use the 200,000 people still trapped in the city as human shields,” said the organization in a statement. It added that it was “deeply concerned for the safety of civilians in Raqqa who are now at real risk of facing the full brunt of the assault to come.”