c.2013 New York Times News Service
In the shadow of a confrontation over whether Syria’s government had attacked civilians with internationally banned chemical munitions, a rights group reported Wednesday that Syrian armed forces had repeatedly used cluster bombs, another widely prohibited weapon, in the country’s civil war.
The group, Human Rights Watch, said in a report on cluster bomb use that it had documented dozens of locations in Syria where cluster bombs had been fired over the past year.
Cluster bombs are munitions that may be fired from artillery or rocket systems or dropped from aircraft. They are designed to explode in the air over their target and disperse hundreds of tiny bomblets over an area the size of a football field. Each bomblet detonates on impact, spraying shrapnel in all directions and killing, maiming and destroying indiscriminately.
Those that fail to explode on impact can still detonate like land mines when disturbed later. A growing number of countries have agreed to a treaty banning the weapons and have destroyed stockpiles; Syria is not among them.
“Syria is persisting in using cluster bombs, insidious weapons that remain on the ground, causing death and destruction for decades,” Mary Wareham, the advocacy director for the arms division at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Meanwhile, other countries around the world that have joined the treaty are showing a strong commitment to get rid of cluster bombs once and for all.”
Syria’s government has denied using cluster munitions in the civil war.