Russia Accused of War Crime: Dropping Phosphorus and Thermobaric Bombs on Residents of Allepo

July 16th, 2016 - by admin

Daily Sabah & – 2016-07-16 18:59:05

Russian Warplanes Drop White Phosphorus Munitions on Aleppo’s Residential Areas
Daily Sabah

ISTANBUL (June 11, 2016) — Footage of Russian warplanes targeting civilians in Syria’s second largest city of Aleppo while using white phosphorus munitions emerged over the weekend.

White phosphorus is an incendiary and toxic chemical substance that is banned by the international treaties and its usage constitutes a war crime. The video dated June 8 shows the Russian warplanes targeting Handarat area located just north of Aleppo city center, according to Turkish military sources.

In the footage, white phosphorus is seen dropped by Russian warplanes, while burning in the air and on the ground amid explosions with white smoke.

Two children were reportedly killed and six civilians were injured in the attacks.

The usage of these munitions on civilian areas is a clear violation of United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons dated 1980 and constitutes a war crime, the sources said.

The smoke of white phosphorus causes sudden scars in lungs and suffocates people to death upon breathing, while causing an inside out burning on human body.

Handarat is located on the corridor that connects opposition-held neighborhoods of Aleppo with the rest rebel-held Syrian territory and the rest of the world. Syrian regime aims to cut off this corridor to lay siege on Aleppo, which is likely to cause a humanitarian catastrophe for hundreds of thousands civilians still residing in opposition-held parts of once Syria’s commercial hub.

Russia Breaching International Conventions,
Dropping Lethal Aerial Arsenal on Aleppo, Syria

(June 25, 2016) — Russia is breaching international conventions by dropping incendiaries similar to white phosphorus on to residential neighborhoods in the Syrian city of Aleppo in what is thought to be the prelude to a ground assault to retake the city from rebel forces.

Photographs have also shown what experts believe to be a thermobaric bomb, the most powerful explosive apart from a nuclear weapon, being detonated next to urban areas, with potentially devastating effects for civilians.

Video footage has emerged showing the glowing showers of what is thought to be thermite raining down on a rebel-held suburb of Aleppo and starting huge fires.

Hussein Mohammad, the cameraman who shot the footage, said six Russian planes started circling the city about midnight on Monday (7am Tuesday, AEST). Two of them dropped a “phosphorus-like substance” that took search-and-rescue crews an unusually long time to put out. One person was killed and about 25 injured.

Thermite bombs are incendiary weapons that burn at extremely high temperatures and are difficult to extinguish. Like phosphorus, thermite causes severe and often fatal burns.

“I’d say thermite is worse than white phosphorus as it’s extremely difficult to put out,” said Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website, who identified the weapons.

“We have seen these munitions used before in the conflict, since late 2012. But the interesting aspect (in these recent attacks) is that Russia appears to be the one dropping them.”

Moscow is also dropping what appear to be fuel-air bombs, described by one arms expert as “a mini nuclear bomb” next to residential areas. Former British Army explosives expert Major Chris Hunter called it “a very, very irresponsible act”.

Thermobaric weapons generate a high-temperature explosion followed by a blast wave that lasts far longer than a conventional explosive. “It is a breach of the Geneva Convention to use these weapons off the battlefield,” Major Hunter said. “The effect on civilians is horrific.”

While thermite and white phosphorus are not completely banned under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, they are not permitted to be used as an ¬offensive weapon in civilian areas.

A report by Al Masdar News claims the munitions were targeted at positions of Islamist rebel groups. Sources inside the city said the munitions were hitting residential areas.

“The Russian warplanes started to use (these weapons) about a month ago,” said Mohammed al-Ash, an opposition activist in Aleppo. “It’s really terrifying; night turns into clear day. It’s like huge fireworks in a festival. My city is totally stricken. There are hundreds of airstrikes with vacuum rockets, thermite and cluster bombs, barrel bombs and naval mines.”

Thermite is only the latest banned or restricted weapon to be deployed by the Kremlin in Syria. There have also been reports of cluster munitions — bombs that break up in the air into smaller incendiaries that can cause death and injury over a wide area — since Russia entered the conflict on President Bashar al-Assad’s side last September.

Human Rights Watch reported in February that Russian forces had used cluster munitions at least 14 times in a two-week period, killing 37 civilians and wounding dozens more.

Aleppo has been torn between regime and rebel forces for almost four years. Assad’s army and its ¬allies are gearing up for a major ¬offensive to retake the rebel-controlled suburbs, which would deal a major blow to the opposition. General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, Assad’s chief of general staff, ¬visited the frontlines near Aleppo on Monday to inspect the troops’ preparations.

At least 250,000 people have been killed across Syria during the five-year conflict, with some monitoring groups claiming the death toll may be double that.

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