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Putin and Assad use internationally banned cluster munitions in Syria

Human Rights Watch report that Russian and Syrian government forces have used cluster munitions on at least 20 occasions since the beginning of their joint offensive on September 30, 2015
Putin and Assad use internationally banned cluster munitions in Syria

The military operation of Russian and Syrian government forces against Syrian opposition groups, which began on September 30, 2015, has included extensive use of banned cluster munitions, Joinfo.ua reports with reference to the report of the Human Rights Watch.

Cluster munitions are explosive weapons that can be delivered from the ground by artillery and rockets, or dropped from aircraft. A total of 118 countries have banned cluster munitions due to the harm caused at the time of attack and because their submunitions often fail to explode and threaten civilians and military alike, until cleared and destroyed.

The use violates the UN resolution 2139 of February 22, 2014, which demanded that all parties involved in Syria end “indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas,” Human Rights Watch said. It also contradicts a statement issued by the Syrian Forces do not and will not use indiscriminate weapons.

HRW documented that cluster munitions were used on at least 20 occasions since Syria and Russia began their joint offensive on September 30. The detailed information was collected about attacks in nine locations that have killed at least 35 civilians, including five women and 17 children, and injured dozens. Two attacks hit camps for the displaced. The cluster munitions used in Syria recently that HRW was able to confirm were manufactured in the former Soviet Union or Russia.

The organization has documented that several cluster munition attacks in populated areas hit two operational schools in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, which killed at least eight children. Seven types of air-dropped and ground-launched cluster munitions have been used recently in the northern Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib.

HRW has determined that Russian or Syrian forces were responsible for the attacks. Armed opposition groups do not operate aircraft, which means that Russian or Syrian government forces were responsible for the air-dropped cluster munitions. The four types of ground-fired cluster munitions used recently were launched from large vehicles that are complicated to operate and have never been seen in the possession of armed opposition groups. For several attacks using the 9M55K cluster munition rocket, geo-located video footage shows that the rockets were fired from the base of the Zeyn al-Abedeen mountain, just north of Hama city, in an area controlled by the Syrian military.

The attacks on Douma on December 13, which included other weapons as well, killed at least 45 civilians, according to a staff member at the Unified Medical Office for Douma. At least some of the victims appeared to have been killed by cluster munitions, according to local residents.

All the recent cluster munition attacks fell on opposition-controlled territory.

Human Rights Watch urges Syria and Russia to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.