U.S. Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit carry 155mm rounds to an M777 Howitzer gun line in preparation for fire missions in northern Syria. The sea-foam green rounds on the truck are white phosphorus munitions. (Photo courtesy Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning, U.S. Marine Corps)
The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria appears to have used white phosphorus-loaded munitions on at least two occasions in densely populated areas of Mosul and in the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, according to videos posted online and human rights groups.
The often-controversial munitions are common in western militaries and are used primarily to create smoke screens, though they can also be dropped as an incendiary weapon. When a white phosphorus shell explodes, the chemical inside reacts with the air, creating a thick white cloud. When it comes in contact with flesh, it can maim and kill by burning to the bone.
While international humanitarian law stipulates …
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