The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

The SOHR reveals medical reports confirming Turkey’s use of internationally prohibited weapons in northern Syria, calls on the international community to investigate and hold officials accountable

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,

October 2019

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has obtained documented information proving the use of internationally prohibited weapons in northeast Syria by Turkish forces and their affiliated factions, where reliable medical sources revealed medical reports including the condition of a number of casualties suffered by fighters and civilians as a result of the bombing and direct Turkish targets. According to reports the SOHR obtained a copy to submit it to international actors to investigate Turkey’s breach of international conventions and agreements regarding the use of internationally prohibited weapons; a large number of cases have been subjected to significant burns and distortions resulting only from the use of unconventional weapons.

One of the reports obtained by the Syrian Observatory is one the case of H.H., a 23-year-old SDF fighter, who sustained injuries on 10 October while escorting a civilian convoy targeted by Turkey. He suffered injuries while he was in Ras al-Ain. According to the report, (H) arrived at the hospital with severe burns in the feet and hands, difficulty swallowing, severe cough and heartburn. The second case, which the SOHR obtained the medical report of it, is for (A.H), a SDF fighter aged 30 years, who was injured on October 15, in “Ras al-Ain” after an air strike targeted him. He was unconscious but remembers the smell of sulfur and saw red lights, and suffers from burns in the face, head, hands, chest and stomach.

Reliable medical sources disclosed several reports of other cases, including the case of J.C., a 23-year-old Syrian Democratic Forces fighter, who was injured in the industrial area of ​​Ras al-Ain after a Turkish airstrike in the area. He lost consciousness after the raid; however he confirms that he still remembers the smell of sulfur, and he suffers from severe burns, difficulty swallowing and watery eyes. Moreover, there was the case of (A.H.) a SDF fighter who is 19 years old, and he is one of the serious cases, as he suffers from second and third degree burns in 30% of his face, and confirmed in his testimony that he remembers seeing yellow and orange lights at the time of his injury, in “Alia Silos”’ area of ​​the M4 road, in a Turkish airstrike at 3 or 4 a.m. on October 17, 2019.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also received medical reports from a number of other wounded, including H.A., a 20-year-old SDF fighter, who was wounded on the road near Ras al-Ain on October 10. He suffers from burns in the face, arms and hands. Meanwhile, S.S. is another 20-year-old SDF fighter, who suffers second and third-degree burns in 33% of the face and chest, and from swallowing difficulties, burning in the chest, throat, eyes and white foam in the mouth. In his testimony, S.S. confirms that he saw yellow and orange fires before his injuries.

“There are partner organizations help us to investigate the use of internationally prohibited weapons against fighters and civilians by Turkish forces and factions loyal to them, knowing that we are not entitled to ask the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate the incidents as the request should be submitted by a country not an organization. We already have samples and evidence and have an appointment at the Italian embassy tomorrow to communicate with them to support us in the international investigation request. We knew that the OPCW launched an investigation and had a tour in markets, but has not yet met with the wounded nor had taken samples. There is an Italian organization that helps us in this matter to get the Italians to help us in this regard,” reliable medical sources told the SOHR.

The sources told the Syrian Observatory that only the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) can investigate, because it is possible to claim that the Kurdish Red Crescent is fabricating evidence, and therefore a state must formally request an investigation from the UN organization. “The organization says it is conducting its investigation, and it is certainly they who will get the samples themselves. We already have samples, but if we hold them longer, they will be of no use. We have contacted the former commander of the English regiment of chemical and radiological weapons Hamish Debrayton, who stressed that all the symptoms suffered by the wounded are caused by the use of chemical weapons, especially the use of (white phosphorus), but nevertheless must be definitive confirmation issued by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” the sources said.

Medical sources also pointed out that they had contacted international organizations such as “Human Rights Watch,” but there is no new yet and no date has been set for the meeting after sending the files of infected cases. The sources added: “We documented several cases, including the civilian convoy that was on its way to Ras al-Ain with escort fighters. We talked with the fighters who said they were 200 people and there were about 700 or 800 civilians, and according to our analysis, the Turks said that if they used normal weapons it would not cause harm unlike the use of unconventional weapons. There was another incident at Alia silos west of Tal Tamr, where the bodies of five fighters were burned. We got samples and files for nine people, and there were other cases, including children”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while revealing the details of the medical cases of a number of casualties who have not been caused by conventional weapons; calls on international organizations and the international community to intervene and investigate immediately before evidence of the use of weapons by Turkish forces and their factions fades; investigations will often prove to be chemical weapons, particularly white phosphorus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights calls on all actors in the Syrian crisis to hold those responsible for these serious violations of international law, which prohibit the use of incendiary weapons and internationally prohibited weapons against fighters or civilians alike, as well as to hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the supreme commander of the Turkish armed forces, Which is the main sponsor of the so-called “Syrian National Army,” which is conducting military operations in northern and eastern Syria in cooperation with the Turkish forces and cover of Turkish warplanes, as medical sources confirmed that they carried out at least two raids with unconventional weapons.