Turkish Invasion Force Using Banned Incendiary Weapons Against Civilians in Syria, Kurds Say
Kurdish leaders and health officials in northern Syria said on Thursday that Turkish armed forces had been using prohibited weapons such as napalm against civilians during their ongoing military onslaught.
“There are a lot of fears that prohibited weapons are being used in Sari Kani (the embattled northern town of Ras al Ain),” Dr. Manal Mohammed — head of the Rojava Health Board in the Kurdish region of Syria — told the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.
“Wounds we treat at the hospitals are not normal injuries at all,” Dr. Mohammed said.
Another doctor treating wounded civilians in Ras al-Ain, a border town that is the site of fierce fighting between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Turkish military, reported that there had been a dramatic leap in the number of burn cases.
“Every day we receive dozens of people injured in the attack,” Dr. Fares Hammu told the Kurdish news outlet ANHA on Thursday. “The Turkish occupation state uses all kinds of heavy weapons, because many cases are serious.”
“We expect the Turkish state to use internationally-prohibited weapons, such as chemical weapons,” Dr. Hammu added.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted on Thursday that his group suspected that “unconventional weapons are used against SDF fighters” in Ras al-Ain.
He appealed for an international investigation, saying the local teams on the ground lack the expert knowledge and the foreign specialists and humanitarian aid groups have withdrawn from northern Syria.
Aldar Khalil, an executive board member of northern Syria’s ruling Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM), said in a separate television interview on Wednesday that medical examinations “confirm claims that Turkey is using banned weapons containing phosphorus and napalm.”
Turkish government officials have angrily denied the Kurdish charges. “Those who are smearing the Operation Peace Spring [the Turkish military’s official name for its invasion of Syria] are those who are frustrated and angry for losing positions in Syria,” Ibrahim Kalin — a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — told a press conference in the capital Ankara late on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group with a wide network of sources on the ground, could not confirm the use of napalm or white phosphorus, but did say that there had been a notable spike in the number of people being treated for burns in the Ras al-Ain area.
An incendiary jelly-like substance that burns at the same temperature as gasoline, napalm has been used historically by the US, French, Moroccan and Iranian militaries among others. The use of napalm in areas inhabited by civilians is prohibited by a 1980 United Nations convention. White phosphorous has several military uses, but can also be deployed as an incendiary weapon.
US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Turkey on Thursday on a mission to persuade Ankara to halt its offensive, but Turkish officials have insisted that the operation will continue regardless.
Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion was launched after a telephone call between President Donald Trump and Erdogan during which the American leader confirmed that he was withdrawing all remaining US troops from Syria, to the dismay of long-standing allies on the ground.