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'Extensive use' of cluster munitions documented in Syria

Remains of an alleged cluster bomb outside Aleppo [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 20 December, 2015

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Human Rights Watch has documented an extensive use of internationally banned cluster munitions by Syrian and Russian forces against civilians in Syria.

A substantial amount of cluster bombs have been used by Russian and Syrian forces during airstrikes in Syria, a leading human rights group has found.

Human Rights Watch [HRW] issued a report detailing the extensive use of the bombs since the Russian entry into Syria's war on 30 September.

Cluster munitions are explositive weapons dropped from the sky, and are "inherently indiscriminate" and internationally banned. But the organisation has recorded their use in Syria on at least 20 occasions.


"Syria's promises on indiscriminate weapons ring hollow when cluster munitions keep hitting civilians in many parts of the country," said Ole Solvang, HRW's deputy emergencies director.

"The UN Security Council should get serious about its commitment to protect Syria’s civilians by publicly demanding that all sides stop the use of cluster munitions."

The cluster munitions used in Syria recently were manufactured in the former Soviet Union or Russia, HRW said.

Targeting civilians

One of the attacks targetted internally displaced people in Younseyeh, a village in Idlib province, near the Turkish border.

Hospital staff reported that the attack killed seven civilians and injured dozens.

"All of a sudden we heard rockets whistling and explosions all around us," a visitor to the camp told HRW.

"I just looked around me in shock and couldn’t feel anything. I had to grab my arm because it was broken and swinging widely."

HRW collected testimony from eye witnesses to another attack which targeted al-Naqeer camp, also in Idlib.

“We were all sleeping. Suddenly, everything was on fire. We thought we were all going to die. I do not know how we survived. The bombing did not stop for 20 minutes. We were so scared we did not get out of the tent,” said one camp resident.  

“When it stopped, I went out. People were wounded, and some were dead. My brother’s wife was injured in her hand. My cousin was wounded. Yesterday another person died after having been in intensive care for one week."

During nine incidents of cluster munitions use that HRW collected detailed information about, at least 35 civilians were killed, including children.

"Civilians are paying the price of the Syrian-Russian offensive’s use of cluster munitions, with their lives and limbs," Solvang said. "These weapons should never be used under any circumstances."

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