The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad has been using cluster munitions on the civilian population within the rebel-held Idlib province, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed yesterday.
Over the past month, the Syrian regime and its ally, Russia, have been carrying out a bombing campaign on Idlib in the north-west of the country, with the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI) having already highlighted in October that Syria is experiencing fighting at its “worst point in four years”.
One of those attacks hit the town of Termanin in northern Idlib on 6 October, killing two civilians and injuring nine others, upon impact. According to the HRW report, however, it was no ordinary strike but, instead, utilised cluster munitions, a fact that was confirmed the next day when a nine-year-old boy picked up a munition which failed to detonate earlier, subsequently injuring him and three others.
Cluster munitions are a weapon which releases up to hundreds of small bombs over a wide area, indiscriminately striking many people and failing to avoid civilian casualties. Some of those bombs also fail to detonate for many years, posing a risk for passers-by and especially children, who easily mistake them for toys or small metal balls.
As a result, such munitions are banned by most countries due to their indiscriminate nature. The Assad regime and its allied Russian forces have frequently and continuously used them throughout the ongoing 12-year-long civil war in Syria, however.
As Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East Director at HRW, stated in the report, “Syrian government forces’ use of cluster munitions during its bombardment of opposition-held areas proves just how tragically indiscriminate these weapons are and their devastating legacy of lasting harm.”
The report revealed that Russian forces also used incendiary weapons during this latest bombing campaign on Idlib by launching incendiary rockets at civilian homes. Those rockets have reportedly resulted in at least the death of a 13-year-old girl and burns to her 11-year-old sister.
According to reports, the past month of the Syrian and Russian bombardment has killed at least 70 in Idlib and injured at least 338, with the Syrian civil defence – otherwise known as the ‘White Helmets’ – reporting that bombings have targeted schools, markets and at least 23 health facilities.