US using white phosphorus in Raqqa: reports
Several civilians were killed June 8 when US-led air-strikes reportedly targeted Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital in northern Syria, with white phosphorus—banned by the Geneva Convention as a weapon of war. The reports came both from Syrian state media and local activists on the ground in Raqqa, who posted footage online, showing the skies of above the city lit by a rainfall of glowing ordnance. The report comes as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are preparing a final offensive to take Raqqa. (Xinhua)
The US has been accused of using white phosphorus before in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Russia and the Assad regime have also been (repeatedly) accused of using phosphorus elsewhere in Syria. Among other reported uses in recent years, Turkey has been accused of using the weapons against Kurdish areas in the country's east, and Israel has been accused of dropping phosphorus in its aerial campaigns in Gaza.
As the SDF are Kurdish-led and Raqqa is an Arab-majority city, keeping the peace once the city is taken from ISIS will be enough of a challenge—especially in light of the accusations (whether true or not) of "ethnic cleansing" by Kurdish forces against Arabs elsewhere in northern Syria. The US aerial carnage in Raqqa only makes this challenge greater, and risks deepning the growing enmity between Arabs and Kurds.
This disturbing report also comes just as US Central Command announced that coalition attacks on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq have killed more than 480 civilians since the aerial campaign opened in 2014—an increase of 130 over last month's estimate. The Pentagon's tally is far below those of independent monitors. (Al Jazeera) Monitoring website AirWars.org now puts the figure at over 22,000—marking a dramatic increase since Trump took over as commander-in-chief. The site also monitored civilian deaths from Russian air-strikes in Syria, but now seems to have given up on keeping an ongoing tally, overwhelmed by "the scale of the Russian campaign and the number of civilian casualty allegations."
It was also reported June 8 that US forces clashed with an Iran-backed pro-regime militia near al-Tanf in southern Hama governorate, apparently bringing down an Iranian-made Shahed 129 drone. This marks the third time the US has targeted pro-regime forces in Syria, and the first time that pro-regime forces have fired on the US-led coalition. (CNN)