A family member of Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, has admitted that the Syrian military has been using barrel bombs against civilians and the opposition throughout the ongoing decade-long conflict, saying that the weapons “cleansed” Syria.
In a livestream on his Facebook account on Saturday, Rifat Ali al-Assad—part of the ruling Assad family—said that “we came with the barrel bombs. What’s a barrel bomb? It’s good. Useful for cleansing the earth of these insects.”
Rifat’s statement is the first open admission of Damascus’s use of the weapon, which is an improvised and cheaply-made explosive device dropped from an aircraft onto specific areas.
Throughout the civil war, the Syrian regime has routinely used it on civilian areas for the purpose of combatting “terrorists,” who comprise of anyone who opposes Assad’s rule. Damascus and its ally, Moscow, have repeatedly denied the possession of the weapons and their use against civilian populations.
The reference to the victims of barrel bombs as “insects” the regime has cleansed, which critics describe as genocidal, is nothing new. Last year, the Syrian Health Minister also seemed to use such language when he told the state-run Ikhbariya TV that there were no cases of Covid-19 in Syria as “the Syrian Arab Army purified Syria of many germs.”
In an interview with the BBC in 2015, President Assad was also asked about the use of barrel bombs, to which he sarcastically joked that “cooking pots” may be dropped on opposition-held areas.