UN chemical weapons inspectors have announced they are gathering information following accusations that white phosphorus-loaded munitions were used by Turkish forces against children in Syria earlier this week, reports The Guardian.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Friday morning that “it was aware of the situation and is collecting information with regard to possible use of chemical weapons”.
Multiple sources have reported that the chemical weapons were dropped in the border town of Ras al-Ayn after images and video surfaced of civilians, including children, suffering gruesome chemical burns, reports Newsweek.
Anthony Loyd, a journalist for The Times of London, was present at a Syrian-Kurdish hospital in Tal Tamir where a 13-year-old boy was brought in with associated injuries.
“The burns on the screaming child brought into the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir were enough to reduce even hardened medical staff to silence yesterday,” he wrote.
“Yet the terrible wounds that had all but flayed the 13-year-old Mohammed Hamid Mohammed’s skin from his torso, penetrating deep into his flesh, suggested his injuries were caused by something far worse than blast alone.
“They added to the growing body of evidence that suggests Turkey, a NATO member, is using white phosphorus against Kurdish civilians in its eight-day offensive into northern Syria.”
Loyd tweeted the images with Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, who confirmed that white phosphorus was used in the attack.
“This very much looks like it was caused by white phosphorus,” Bretton-Gordon said.
“In 24 hours I have been shown more photographs of these kinds of burn than at any recent stage in Syria’s war. White phosphorus is a horrific weapon, which can be delivered by aircraft or artillery. It reacts to the moisture in the skin in a way that intensifies its burning, so that water cannot put it out.”
After 8 days of fierce resistance by our fighters against heavy ground and aerial attacks of Turkey in Serêkaniyê, we suspect that unconventional weapons are used against SDF fighters upon the reports and signs we receive from the besieged town. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/Epr1BsDFhC
— Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) October 16, 2019
Mustafa Bali, head of media relations for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), also documented the use of chemical weapons.
“After eight days of fierce resistance by our fighters against heavy ground and aerial attacks of Turkey in Serekaniye, we suspect that unconventional weapons are used against SDF fighters upon the reports and signs we receive from the besieged town,” Bali said on Twitter.
“We urge international organizations to send their teams to investigate some wounds sustained in attacks. The medical facilities in NE Syria lack expert teams following withdrawal of NGOs due to Turkish invasion attacks.”
Bali shared a video shows several children with severe burns around the body and face.
Newsweek reports that the use of white phosphorus on civilian targets is banned by the Geneva and Chemical Weapons conventions.
The Kurdish Red Crescent said in a statement that six patients, both civilian and military, were in hospital in Hasakah with burns from “unknown weapons” and it was working to evaluate what had been used.
The reported use of chemical weapons on Kurdish civilians came hours after President Obama’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said that President Trump had “endorsed ethnic cleansing” when he told reporters that the Turkish government “had to have [northern Syria] cleaned out,” referring to an area in northern Syria that is home to thousands of Kurdish civilians and Kurdish forces that assisted a U.S.-backed coalition against ISIS.
Turkish military forces have been accused of committing a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Kurds as thousands of civilians flee the conflict.
Trump lavished praise Thursday on his “friend” and “hell of a leader” Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the Turkish president launched the military incursion into northeast Syria.
“For many, many years, Turkey, in all fairness, they’ve had a legitimate problem” with northeast Syria, where the Kurds are settled, Trump said in remarks in Texas ahead of his rally in Dallas. “They had terrorists, they had a lot of people in there they couldn’t have …. and they had to have it cleaned out.”
Power responded on Twitter, calling Trump’s remark a direct endorsement of “ethnic cleansing.”
The President of the United States has endorsed ethnic cleansing. https://t.co/DkjtQYcg6V
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) October 17, 2019
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) October 18, 2019