Rights Groups Sound Alarm Over Devastating Use of Incendiary Weapons in Syria
Proposed joint U.S.-Russia airstrikes against rebel groups will spell further doom, aid worker says
Rights Groups Sound Alarm Over Devastating Use of Incendiary Weapons in Syria
The aftermath of incendiary weapons dropped on Aleppo on August 7. (Photo: Malek Tarboush/Human Rights Watch)
By Nika Knight / commondreams.org
Aug 16, 2016

Human rights advocates are condemning the use of incendiary weaponry—including phosphorous bombs—in airstrikes conducted by the Syrian regime and the Russian government on the cities of Aleppo and Idlib on August 7.

"I saw with my own eyes two strikes, both 'phosphorus'—blocks of flame were falling from the sky," said Ala' Abdel Aziz Hmeidan, an Idlib resident, to rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW), describing phosphorous bombs falling on the city. "After that, there was a strike with a missile carrying cluster bombs. It was tragic, buildings were on fire, rocks were on fire."

In a press briefing published Tuesday, HRW notes: "Local activists, human rights organizations, first responders, and media organizations have reported the use of incendiary weapons on at least 40 other occasions, but no photographs and video footage were available, so Human Rights Watch could not conclusively determine if incendiary weapons were involved." In this case, video and photographic evidence captured by locals confirmed the use of incendiary weapons on August 7.

A Syria Civil Defense volunteer who responded to the attack in Idlib described it in great detail to HRW:

The fire was vast, spreading hundreds of meters, difficult to put out. It reacted with water so we had to use other material, like foam and powder, even gravel. The fire took over everything, houses, cars, oil tanks, and even grass. We heard explosions. It was huge, it required immense efforts to extinguish. The tall, crowded buildings did not make things easy. It took us around an hour to control the situation. It was so bright you could see the buildings as if was daylight. It was absolutely abnormal. Honestly, words cannot describe it.

Hmeidan told the rights organization that the areas bombed in Idlib are largely residential and there were no armed groups present at the time of the strike.

"Incendiary weapons produce heat and fire through the chemical reaction of a flammable substance, causing excruciatingly painful burns that are difficult to treat," HRW explains. "The weapons also start fires that are hard to extinguish, destroying civilian objects and infrastructure."

"The disgraceful incendiary weapon attacks in Syria show an abject failure to adhere to international law restricting incendiary weapons," added Steve Goose, arms director at HRW. "The resulting civilian harm demonstrates the inadequacy of existing law on incendiary weapons, which should be strengthened urgently. From a humanitarian standpoint, a global ban on incendiary weapons would provide the best solution."

The human rights organization delved into the technical details of such bombs, noting that all the incendiary weapons recorded in Syria so far appear to be ZAB-series (Zazhigatelnaya Aviatsionnaya Bomba) manufactured by the former Soviet Union:

ZAB-series bombs contain a substance believed to be thermite that ignites while falling, leading witnesses to describe the incendiary submunitions as "fireballs." It is not napalm or white phosphorus, which are notorious flammable substances used in other incendiary weapons.

The majority of witness accounts collected by Human Right Watch and video evidence indicate that fixed-wing jet aircraft and helicopters have been used to deliver air-dropped incendiary weapons in Syria. There has been at least one incident involving the use of a surface-launched incendiary weapon.

The Syrian government has used factory-made incendiary weapons since November 2012, particularly air-dropped bombs manufactured by the Soviet Union such as RBK-250 series bombs and ZAB-100-105 bombs. Syrian government forces have also used air-dropped weapons consisting of improvised canisters or "barrel bombs" filled with a napalm-like flammable substance.

Footage broadcasted by Russian state media on June 18 shows RBK-500 ZAB-2.5SM incendiary bombs mounted on a Su-34 fighter-ground attack aircraft at the Russian air base at Hmeymim, southeast of Latakia city, in Syria. Only the Russian air force operates this type of aircraft in Syria.

News of Russia's use of incendiary weapons comes at the same time that joint U.S.-Russia airstrikes against rebel groups are being proposed. An aid worker interviewed by The Intercept said that such a collaboration would be "ludicrous and diabolical."

The Intercept explains that in the past several months, "the United States has repeatedly signaled plans to strike opposition forces in Syria, largely due to fears that al Qaeda-linked groups were making gains in the conflict."

Tauqir Sharif, who works with several British aid organizations in Aleppo, described the current devastation in the city—and warned against the U.S. joining the attacks on rebel groups:

Both Russia and Syrian government are bombing the city right now, we can tell because before the Russian intervention certain weaponry was never seen in Syria: now have seen white phosphorus, cluster bombs, as well as unexploded weaponry with Russian markings. In the only children's hospital left in East Aleppo the conditions are absolutely horrific; it has moved underground to protect it from bombing but there is little oxygen and if a fire were to start no one would be able to escape.

"Exhorting the United States not to join the bombing campaign," The Intercept reports, "Sharif said that officials contemplating such moves had fundamentally misunderstood what the conflict was about."

Sharif told the outlet: "Most people in this city did not even originally want to overthrow the government. They just wanted reforms, but they've been forced to fight because of the regime’s brutal response to their dissent."


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 29,261 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 16,562 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 13,022 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 9,074 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Voices of Standing Rock
49 min · 6,805 views today · Short stories told by water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Part 1 - Introduction: Since mid-August 2016, thousands have set up camp near the Standing Rock Sioux...
Redneck Revolt Presents: A Message to the Patriot Movement
6 min · 4,819 views today · Over the past few weeks, Redneck Revolt has been communicating with a former member of a III% Patriot Militia based out of Ohio. Peter made contact with our organization after...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 4,577 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
Charles Eisenstein: The Two Great Stories That Give Meaning to Our Lives
6 min · 3,665 views today · What matters in life? Who are we? Every culture has answers to these questions. And the way we answer them has profound effects on the health of people and planet. This is a...
The Fire Within
Words by Sophie Scholl - Illustrations by Gavin Aung Than · 3,528 views today · Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) was a German activist who is famous for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Scholl was a member of a protest group called The White Rose, which...
The London Anarchist Group Squatting Mansions to Fight Homelessness
6 min · 2,418 views today · London squatting activists ANAL (Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians) are squatting empty multi-million pound buildings and opening them up to the homeless.
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 2,144 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
The Lessons of Standing Rock
Michael Emero · 2,109 views today · In mid-November of 2016, I was a Water Protector at Standing Rock. At first my goal was to play investigative journalist; documenting then writing about every detail for my...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,061 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
What Happens When You Rebel Against the Herd
Sofo Archon · 1,738 views today · Are You Truly Living Your Life? You live, but are you living the way you want to live, or the way others want you to live? You choose, but are your choices based on...
Everything We Think We Know About Addiction Is Wrong
6 min · 1,362 views today · What causes addiction? Easy, right? Drugs cause addiction. But maybe it is not that simple. This video is adapted from Johann Hari's New York Times best-selling book 'Chasing...
Films for Action's Public Film Screening Guide
Tim Hjersted and Matt Toplikar · 1,045 views today · This guide will give you step by step instructions on how to host Films For Action sponsored film screening events in your city. It is intended primarily for people who have...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,015 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 928 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 596 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Philippine Vigils Against Vigilantes - The Reign of Terror in the President's War on Drugs
7 min · 582 views today · The war on drugs waged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken more than 7,000 lives since its inception. It took the killing of a South Korean businessman by police...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Rights Groups Sound Alarm Over Devastating Use of Incendiary Weapons in Syria