BEIRUT – The Syrian military has used cluster bombs against civilians throughout the country in recent months, a human rights group charged Sunday.
Many of the cluster strikes were near the city of Maarat Numan in Idlib province, where Free Syrian Army rebels last week launched an offensive to free the city of government checkpoints, Human Rights Watch said in its report. The city is along the main highway that connects the major cities of Aleppo and Damascus, the capital.
Towns in several other provinces, including on the outskirts of Damascus, were also hit with the cluster bombs, Human Rights Watch said. It did not say how many people were killed in these attacks.
Cluster munitions explode in the air, sending dozens or more smaller bombs over a large area. But the smaller bombs often don’t explode on initial impact, leaving the munitions to act like land mines and explode when handled, the group said.
More than 100 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the use of cluster munitions and requires clearance of contaminated areas and assistance to victims. Syria did not sign it.
“Syria’s disregard for its civilian population is all too evident in its air campaign, which now apparently includes dropping these deadly cluster bombs into populated areas,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “Syria should immediately stop all use of these indiscriminate weapons that continue to kill and maim for years.”
The international group based its findings on 18 videos posted by activists online showing the aftermath of the cluster bomb strikes and unexploded munitions, as well as on follow-up interviews with Syrians. Residents from the towns of Taftanaz and Tamanea told the organization that helicopters dropped cluster munitions on or near their towns.