FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

War Crimes: Barrel Bombs in Syria and Iraq

by

UN Security Council Resolution 2139 of February 22, 2014, ordered all parties to the conflict in Syria to end the discriminate use of barrel bombs and other weapons in populated areas. In spite of that, both the Syrian and the Iraqi governments continue using them against civilians. Human rights groups have characterized them as weapons of terror and illegal under international conventions.

Barrel bombs are a type of improvised explosive device (IED) sometimes described as “flying IED” typically made from a barrel that has been filled with high explosives, shrapnel, oil and chemicals and then dropped from a plane or a helicopter. They are cheap to produce, so they are used extensively in ongoing conflicts such as Syria and Iraq. Because different explosives can fit into them, and due to their poor accuracy and indiscriminate use in civilian areas they provoke devastating effects and loss of lives.

The earlier use of these bombs was in South Sudan in the 1990s, where they were expelled from transport planes. Since then, they are now being extensively used by the Syrian Air Force and by the Iraqi government forces, as happened during the Anbar clashes (2013-2014.)

“What is happening now in Iraq definitely started in Syria. If I were al-Maliki, and seeing Assad next door using the same tactics without a slap on the wrist and gaining ground as a result, it stands to reason he would say, “Why the hell not?’” said Erin Evers of Human Rights Watch.

Residents of Tikrit, Baiji and Mosul report also that government forces dropped barrel bombs on their cities during the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, as they also did later in July in Fallujah and the nearby town of Al-Karmath.

Barrel bombs use in Syria was first identified in August 2012. Although a Russian military expert initially denied its existence, an October 2012 video clearly showed a barrel bomb being lit and dropped by Syrian Air Force personnel. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 barrel bombs have been used and that more than 20,000 people have been killed by them since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011.

Aleppo has been the focal point for the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian government. According to evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, Syrian government forces have increased the use of barrel bombs since the UN Security Council passed the resolution banning their use last February.

Since that resolution was passed until July 14, 2014, Human Rights Watch identified over 650 new major strikes in Aleppo neighborhoods held by groups opposing the government. According to statistics from the Violations Documentation Center, aerial bomb attacks killed 1,655 civilians in the Aleppo governorate between February 22 and July 22, 2014.

Area bombing or carpet bombing, where conventional shells are used to bombard a large are from the air – a practice widely used during Second World War- was banned by the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are still considered the cornerstone of contemporary humanitarian law.

Additional Protocol I relates to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. According to this Protocol, it is not lawful to treat a whole city as a target simply because it contained a number of separate military targets within it. These kinds of actions also violate the principles established in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court regarding the protection of civilians in combat zones.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been extremely critical of the use of weapons that increasingly kill innocent civilians and continue to fuel the conflict. “Further escalation of violence will only serve the agenda of those who see military means as the only way forward, at the expense of the Syrian people, who have suffered enough already,” he said referring to the war in Syria.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail