20 November 2012

Suspected use of White Phosphorus in Syria - 4 videos

Please notice: this is a layman's post. If you read it please don't skip the notes during and at the bottom of the post. Also before you decide what to think of my writings: please read through my latest post (plead added 03/06/2014).

N.B.: by November 27, this description of a type of incendary munitions has been published by arms specialist N.R. Jenzen-Jones. The description seems to match much of what is seen in the videos in this post, and does not include white phosphorus. In relation to the Syrian armed conflict this munitions type was initially pointed to by Eliot Higgins on the Brown Moses blog on November 21. I think you should read those posts first (added here 27&28/11/2012).

Video #1:
Title: "Maart 11/20/2012 bombed toxic fissile c 1" (google translated title).
Uploaded November 20, 2012.
According to tweets from @SyrianSmurf this videos - as indicated in the title - is from Maraat al-Numan, Idlib, and people there feared/believed the smoke from the munitions was/is toxic.
(video now re-posted by me because the version I used originally dissapeared)

Assuming the next video is of a similar case it gives a clearer idea of what this site possibly have been targeted with.

Video #2:
.Title: "Haaaaaaaam warplanes bombing of cluster bombs" (google translated title).
Uploaded November 20, 2012.
This is also said to be a recording from Maraat al-Numan (link via @Markito0171).

The video tells that it is aerial bomb(s)(see note 2):
0:24 min: the jet releases 3 or 4 objects (that has to be bombs)
0:31 min: the first flash can be seen on the ground (that's a fast drop but might have to do with the bombs being dropped during a dive).
0:51 min: notice the thin trails of smoke, that seems to arch from the centre of the explosion. 1:07 min: new explosions inside the smoke with glowing objects flying in the air.
1:48 min: smoke rising fare to the left of what appears to have been the/a main explosion (see note 3).

Video #3:

Title: "The banner of monotheism :: Syrian regime uses new weapons in Aleppo" (google translated title).
Uploaded November 19, 2012.
This is claimed to be a recording from Aleppo, both in the title and by activist/FSA member @HamaEcho who tweeted the link.

The next video takes a closer look at the glowing pieces that rains down after the explosion at 0:08 min (see note 4).

Video #4:
Title: "Aleppo: new shells believed to be in the palace garden sulfur 11/20/2012" (google translated title).
Uploaded November 20, 2012.
According to @HamaEcho this is a recording of the bomb site of the previous video (from Aleppo).

Through this video it can be seen, that removing the ash cover makes the material below start to burn. This is consistent with one of the main characteristics of white phosphorous - namely spontaneous ignition by contact with oxygen. The large amount of smoke is another characteristic. I also think, that the glowing objects, flying around in the second and raining down in the third video, are consistent with the behaviour of white phosphorus, but I haven't had this confirmed (see note 5).

Assuming these three cases are of the same kind of munitions, then the sudden appearance of several such cases seems to indicate a general deployment of this new type of munition. As mentioned the suspicion is that these are cases of use of white phosphorous, but, again, this has not been confirmed with certainty. This post is only a quick presentation of material, that went through the social media stream today (Nov20), and it is meant as an attempt at furthering such a confirmation. Anyone, who can add to this, is very welcome to do so either by leaving a comment below or via Twitter.

Video showing what looks like scattered burn marks and remains of white phosphorus (see note 5).
Uploaded on November 24, 2012, to a YouTube channel linked to Aleppo  (link via @massdall, added 24/11/2012).

Video showing what looks like remains of a cluster bomb canitser and submunitions. The shape of the assumed submunitions (the cylindrical objects) matches the incendiary munitions described by Eliot Higgins and N. R. Jenzen-Jones in the posts mentioned in the top of this post (also linked to below).
The video was uploaded on November 28, 2012, to the Aleppo/Idlib linked YouTube channel of AENNetwork (added here 28/11/2012).

Clarification (December 10, 2012):
If you didn't read the posts linked to in the top of this post, then, so there is no misunderstanding: the suspicion of white phosphorus raised in this post, has not been confirmed. What has been confirmed, is that cluster bombs with incendiary submunitions have been brought into use by the Syrian government airforce.
I have not seen recordings of remains of what was dropped in the two first videos in this post, but as of now I find it most likely that these were munition of the same kind. Luckily, in relation to safety, in this case, if someone on the ground took the heavy leaning of my text towards white phosphorus for a conclusion, it will not have made a lot of difference, but it is painfully easy to imagine, that it could have.


Unexploded munitions are potentially lethal, and should only be handled by professionals. Therefore please notice the ARMS guidelines:

- Avoid the area
- Record all relevant information from a safe distance
- Mark the area to warn others
- Seek assistance from the relevant authorities

A specific warning should be given in relation to the ZAB-2.5 incendiary submunitions:
some of these are designed to explode after having burned for a while (this could be what caused the secondary explosions in some of the recordings in this post). This gives extra reason to stay away.

- link to print-out poster and warning flags from R.R.M.A. (ZAP 2.5 is the relevant poster)


Update, December 25, 2012:
There seem to actually have been established some cases of evidence of use of white phosphrus, but so fare only in the form of artillery grenades - not aerial bombs.
More material too about possible use of WP grenades in Homs in this post (3/4 down).

* note 1: date and locations of these videos are not verified.
* note 2: clarification: video #2 shows aerial bombs. It does not show that munitions in the other videos are aerial bombs; only that aerial bombs with similar detonation and smoke pattern seems to be deployed (clarification added 23/11/2012).
* note 3: the 1:48 min. observation was added 23/11/2012.
* note 4: this is according to the same activist who tweeted videos #3 and #4 (added 25/12/2012).
* note 5: this was what I believed to be the strongest indicator of white phosphorus, but by now I suspect one of the thermite variants of the incendary submunitions, described in the posts, linked to below, could have such a reaction pattern as well (note added 28/11/2012).

Relevant posts:
- First Evidence Of Incendiary Submuntion Cluster Bombs Used In Syria
- Update: Cluster Munitions in Syria (ZAB-2.5 incendiary submunitions)
- Arms Trade Data-Sharing: Soviet Incendiary Bombs and Bomblets, The Color-Code Guide.
- Likely Evidence of White Phosphorus use in Syria
- A short write up about White Phoshporus by @Dr_mz13

* thanks to @Johnnyrocket69, @Jugend75 and @Dr_mz13 for sparring and valuable input during the day, and to @Brown_Moses for linking and more. The heavy leaning towards a white phosphorus conclusion in the post is entirely on my account. - any corrections and suggestions are welcome. You can either leave information as a comment or via @bjoernen_hj

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