With Iraqi forces continuing to near the city of Mosul in a protracted military offensive, there are more than a few concerns about potential war crimes against the massive civilian population in the ISIS-held city. Today, Amnesty International’s concern centers on white phosphorus.
White phosphorus is legally used both for smoke screens and for illumination in war zones, its use is often heavily criticized for the risk of civilian casualties in the intense temperature the chemical burns at. Its use in areas where civilians are present is considered a war crime.
This is particularly true around Mosul, a huge city in which some 1.5 million people are believed to still reside. Amnesty noted it has photographic evidence of the use of the chemical to the northeast of Mosul, and warned against any further use in areas where civilians are present or may be present in the near future.
US forces have been documented using white phosphorus recently in Iraq, though they insist they’ve only done so in ways consistent with their interpretation of international law. The US, of course, insists everything they do in Iraq is legal, but in the case of such a densely populated area, this could be a big problem.