Barrel Bombs Killing Civilians in Syria

Barrel bomb attack in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Wikipedia
Barrel bomb attack in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Wikipedia

The Syrian government has carried out new indiscriminate attacks over the past year with air-delivered munitions, including improvised weapons such as barrel bombs. The attacks have had a devastating impact on civilians, killing or injuring thousands of people, Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday.

A barrel bomb is an improvised explosive device (IED) made from a barrel filled with high explosives and dropped from air on the target location.

Human Rights Watch says it has documented the attacks in Aleppo governorate in northern Syria and in Daraa governorate in the south based on witness statements, satellite imagery analysis, and video and photographic evidence.

Although the United Nations Security Council condemned the attacks in a resolution adopted a year ago, it has not responded directly to the new wave of attacks, according to Human Rights Watch.

“For a year, the Security Council has done nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad’s murderous air bombing campaign on rebel-held areas, which has terrorized, killed, and displaced civilians,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

“Amid talk of a possible temporary cessation of strikes on Aleppo, the question is whether Russia and China will finally allow the UN Security Council to impose sanctions to stop barrel bombs.”

By examining satellite imagery, Human Rights Watch identified at least 450 distinct major damage sites in 10 towns and villages held by rebel groups in Daraa and over 1,000 in Aleppo between February 22, 2014, and January 25, 2015.

These impact sites have damage signatures strongly consistent with the detonation of large, air-dropped munitions, including improvised barrel and conventional bombs dropped by helicopters.

Damages that possibly result from the use of rockets, missiles, or fuel-air bombs are also likely in a number of instances, it was said.

Human Rights Watch also examined dozens of videos uploaded to YouTube of major impact sites, as well as videos of Syrian Mi-17 helicopters dropping both improvised barrel and conventional bombs on populated areas of Aleppo, the city of Daraa, and the town of Dael, in Daraa governorate.

By matching video landmarks with satellite imagery and 3D models, Human Rights Watch determined the location, approximate time of day, and date of the attacks.

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Rakesh Raman