A man waits as Syrian civil defence workers look for survivors under the rubble of a collapsed building following reported air strikes on July 17, 2016 in Aleppo. Photo: AFP/Thaer Mohammed
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Nearly 70,000 barrel bombs dropped in heavily populated areas of Syria by the Syrian regime are responsible for the deaths of almost 11,000 civilians over the course of the nearly seven-year conflict, according to research from a rights group.
“The repeated use of this arbitrary, indiscriminate weapon against residential communities is a message to the Syrian people that protecting civilians and the international law are mere illusions, and that you have to submit and accept the regime that is killing you,” said Fadel Abdul Ghany, chairman of the Syrian Network of Human Rights (SNHR), in a report released on Monday.
The report from the UK-based organization that was founded in 2011 documents barrel bomb use in Syria from the first time they were dropped in July 2012 through December 2017 and the casualties which resulted.
At least 68,334 bombs have been dropped during that time frame and resulted in 10,763 civilian casualties, including 1,734 children and 1,689 adult women.
Additionally, at least 565 attacks on civilian facilities were recorded including 76 medical facilities, 50 markets, 140 schools and 160 mosques.
The use of barrel bombs continued even after the UN Security Council passed resolution 2139 in 2014 which explicitly barred these weapons and promised to take measures in the event of non-compliance.
According to the SNHR report, barrel bombs are described as “often a Russian-made weapon that is known for its huge destructive power while having a simple mechanism and technology.”
Barrel bombs are mostly cylinder shaped containers weighing between 50 kilograms up to one ton “with explosive materials and metal pieces such as nails, bars and chips to inflict as much damage as possible as those objects scatter in the air after the bomb explodes.”
The report states that in mid-2014, after the restrictions passed by the UN Security Council, the regime began filling the barrel bombs with chemical substances including poisonous gas and incendiary ammunition, some is which is believed to be napalm.
Vitaly Churkin, the late Russian ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council in December that the Syrian government had ceased to use barrel bombs.
Some 87 attacks occurred with poisonous gas and four attacks with incendiary ammunition.
Damascus has denied using chemical weapons.
The Syrian regime manufactured barrel bombs at private factories mostly located in military and civilian airbases and were dropped by helicopters or fixed-wing warplanes.
The report stresses that the Syrian regime has violated several UN Security Council resolutions by using barrel bombs in a widespread manner as well as Article 7 of the Rome Statute and rules of international human rights laws which constitutes as war crimes.
The SNHR report calls on the UN Security Council to refer the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian government to the International Criminal Court so that security and peace can be restored in Syria and the regime and any supporting governments should be prosecuted for war crimes.
Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed Friday to hold Syria peace talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi next month, a move that the U.N. Special envoy for Syria said should be assessed based on its contribution to the mandated political process under the United Nations in Geneva.
“[The UN] Security Council has to take decisive action against the Syrian regime’s use of arbitrary weapon on this large, widespread scale. The U.N. special envoy has also to play a more effectual role in putting an end to the winter of barrel bombs in Syria,” Ghany added.